The Oman branch in 1978

In 1978, there were 25 staff in the Oman branch, which played an active role in import financing. Paribas was one of the main international banks working in the Letters of Credit market. The branch s clientele was mostly made up of merchants who were agents or representatives of Western companies.

Christian Mourot-Bergeon recalls the way in which business was done: At that time everything in Oman was approached in a very traditional way. In order to do business you would be invited to attend many majlises *, meeting merchants and sharing meals with them. We threw ourselves completely into the local customs and this meant that we integrated very quickly and were accepted by the local people. However, it s true that the country was changing very rapidly, especially due to the many managerial- level people who came from Lebanon and Palestine .

*The term Majlis refers to a private place where guests are received and entertained.

essentially carrying out central planning for all such projects. The most popular strategy was to set up joint ventures with foreign companies.

Following its fact-finding trip to Kuwait, the delegation continued on to Bahrain, home to a Paribas branch since October 1975. The market here was small in comparison to Kuwait, but there were a number of industrial projects in which Paribas could potentially participate, and the Bank was starting to make some very valuable local contacts.

As Paribas started to become known in the Gulf States, it gained a reputation for being an industry-oriented bank, which set it apart from other Western banks. However, while it was involved in a number of industrial projects at the planning stage, many never came to fruition, partly because of a lack of market knowledge among foreign manufacturers. One of the Paribas senior managers23 on the delegation made this remark: Getting local projects up and running is going to be difficult. We have to find the right product which can be manufactured locally. The situation is that on the one hand there is demand for new product ideas and potential partners, while at the same time the foreign companies are asking what the local needs are.

H.H. Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Emir of Bahrain, makes an official visit to France, 1976

In March 1976, H.H. Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Emir of Bahrain, paid an official visit to France and was received by the President of the Republic, Valéry Giscard d Estaing. Paribas President Jacques de Fouchier was invited to the official dinner in honour of the Emir at the Elysée Palace, the official Presidential residence. The Bank s Advisor for International Affairs, Claude de Kémoularia met the Emir and members of his delegation the following day.

Paribas and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 1976

In September 1976, Pierre Géniteau, one of the Directors of the Saudi International Bank, went to see Paribas in Paris to discuss prospective areas where the two banks might co-operate. The conversation covered potential medium-term lending to non-Arab borrowers, based preferably in countries such as Brazil and Mexico, or in the Far East. The most immediate opportunities were, however, to be found in the issuance of bank guarantees and surety bonds in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Banks in the Kingdom were allowed to issue these guarantees for up to only 20 percent of their basic capital, which severely restricted Paribas room to manoeuvre when it came to issuing bank guarantees related to major contracts.

23. Note from F. Faure to Paribas senior management: trip to Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, 15 - 23 December 1975

54 T H E H I S T O R Y O F B N P PA R I B A S I N T H E G U L F S TAT E S