In December 1976, Pierre de Longuemar24, then in charge of relations with foreign banks and responsible for Eurocurrency lending, made a trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His assessment of France s positioning in the Kingdom was thus: Unfortunately we must recognise that the French have a very low profile25 here for the same reasons as anywhere else that is that there are not enough people on the ground and [there is] insufficient sales follow-up ... The deals that France has managed to conclude in Saudi Arabia are very few in comparison with our major Western or Japanese competitors.
De Longuemar then recommended that Paribas should accept the need to offer better terms on Saudi customers capital. He also suggested that the Bank make it a priority to bolster relations with the country s government and officials. De Longuemar believed that Paribas should be taking fresh initiatives at a time when the new French President, Valéry Giscard d Estaing, was preparing to visit H.H. King Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the first visit26 by a French Head of State to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Jacques de Fouchier and Pierre Moussa in the Gulf region, January 1978
Jacques de Fouchier and Pierre Moussa visited the Gulf from 13-17 January 1978, accompanied by François Dauge, Hervé Pinet27 and Hubert de Saint-Amand. They gathered the managers of the Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Doha and Muscat branches, along with the Head of the Bank of Sharjah, to discuss prospects for the Bank s growth in their respective territories. Whilst in the region, the Paribas President and Chief Executive Officer obtained an audience with the Emir of Bahrain, H.H. Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa and the Sultan of Oman, H.M. Qaboos bin Said Al Said, and also met key contacts at the Bahrain Monetary Agency.
Several months later, Paribas opened an offshore banking wholesale unit in Bahrain. Towards the end of 1977, Charles de Gaulle, grandson of France s former President and a manager with Paribas in Paris, wrote, about Bahrain, that there was a need to give the Bank the ability to participate more actively in the development of what is already the largest capital market in the Middle East.
24. Pierre de Longuemar spent all his working life at Paribas, in the international division, where he held a series of senior posts. He was also seconded for several years to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group. Today, he is the President of the BNP Paribas Historical Association.
25. The trade balance between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and France was at this time very one-sided. France was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia s second-largest customer for oil, but was only number seven in terms of exports to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, behind the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
26. President Giscard d Estaing made an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 22-25 January 1977.
27. Hervé Pinet was head of the DIE, the department responsible for setting up Paribas establishments abroad. Hubert de Saint- Amand and Michel François-Poncet acted as his deputies.
55B N P PA R I B A S I N T H E G U L F S TAT E S A N D I T S C O N T R I B U T I O N T O T H E E C O N O M Y O F T H E R E G I O N