Foundation and take-off of the BNP Paribas regional hub

In 2001, shortly after the merger of BNP and Paribas, the newly created bank officially set up a Gulf States regional structure in Bahrain. The move marked a milestone in the history of BNP Paribas Gulf operations, as it was from this point that the Bank s business in the region started to grow new dimensions and develop under the aegis of Jean-Christophe Durand, appointed BNP Paribas Regional Director for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Changes and main steps in building the regional hub

In 2000, two of France s leading banks merged, creating BNP Paribas. The two banks operations in the Gulf were very different Paribas ran an operation that comprised Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain alongside its stakes in the Bank of Sharjah and in the Bank Dhofar Al Omani Al Fransi. BNP s setup covered a much smaller area, comprising Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

When the two banks merged, BNP s Jacques Desponts32 was on the General Management Committee tasked with integrating the two systems, and recalls how the Gulf region was perceived: We understood very quickly that the merger represented a major plus for our business in the Gulf. The reality was that Paribas clearly had the upper hand with the length of time it had been in the Gulf, and with its well-established network there. But first and foremost, Paribas was a leader in the world when it came to trading oil, while [we at BNP] were number one in non-oil commodities trading. We were way ahead in raw materials trading, apart from oil, which was where Paribas dominated the market. This extraordinarily complementary relationship gave us an excellent platform to grow our business in the Gulf.

Philippe Calafat was in Bahrain at the time of the merger and says the move sparked a period of rapid growth: The impact of the move was particularly strong in Bahrain,

32. Jacques Desponts held various senior posts at BNP and subsequently at BNP Paribas, among them Senior Executive Vice- President of Corporate & Investment Banking. During his career, he was seconded several times to senior civil service roles, serving in the private office of two French Economics & Finance Ministers, Jacques Delors and Pierre Beregovoy, and heading the Department of External Economic Relations from 1989 to 1993. Between 2000 and 2011, he visited the Gulf many times in support of the Bank s business development there.

69B 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