During his period in charge, Michel Bikar pushed through a number of improvements in the organisation and the running of the branch and, in 1984, the Bank moved into much more modern and functional premises.
Building a sovereign debt portfolio, 1983
In December 1983, Pierre de Longuemar visited the Gulf States and while the stated aim of the trip was to maintain important contacts that the Bank had in the region, it was also vital to assess the political and financial situation in these countries, due to the prevailing instability and plummeting oil prices. In his subsequent report, which was submitted to Jean-Yves Haberer29, de Longuemar advocated building a sovereign debt portfolio. He explained: At a moment when lack of liquidity will force these States to go more often to the financial markets, there is an opportunity to be seized and a role for us to play in the field of international finance. Are we prepared to take on a portfolio of sovereign debt across the Gulf region at a time when this area is going through a period of turbulence? I would be inclined to take the risk, given that these countries have no net debt and their financial situation is incomparably better than that of countries in Latin America, of Nigeria and even of several countries in Asia.
Assessment of the year 1985
An overview of business at the Paribas Gulf branches at the time can be found in the 1985 Paribas Annual Report. In the Middle East, Paribas has established itself particularly well and was one of the first financial institutions to set up a broad network in the region. We have branches in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, the Sultanate of Oman and Qatar, plus our associate banks, notably the Bank of Sharjah.
In 1985, the countries of the Gulf region, with the exception of the Sultanate of Oman, experienced an economic slowdown, the beginnings of which had already been felt during the two previous years. This was in essence due to lower levels of public spending consequent to the fall in the price of oil. Faced with this situation, the Paribas branches took steps to improve their organisation and consolidate their basic business, while also diversifying their activities, particularly in the field of private and institutional asset management.
The Abu Dhabi and Dubai offices proceeded to streamline and consolidate a number of activities. The first effects of these changes would be felt in 1986. The branches in Bahrain and Qatar suffered the consequences of the general slowdown in activity. However, by intensifying their efforts regarding existing clients, they were able to build further on those business relationships.
29. Paribas President 1982-1986
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