Books and documents:
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà, Brauli Tamarit Tamarit.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
Magdalena Grau, Agustí Chalaux.
Banque Paribas' history.
from «Handbook on the History of European Banks» written by
European Association for Banking History E.V.
Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas was founded in Paris on 27 January 1872.
Its status was that of a public limited company, and its capital amounted
to 125 million francs, of which 62.5 million francs were raised in the
first public issue. The bank came into being through a merger between the
following two banks:
Banque de Crédit et de Dépôt des Pays-Bas, which had
been founded in Amsterdam in 1863, with branches in Paris initially, then
in Brussels, Antwerp and Geneva since 1870; it brought together Parisian
investors (such as E. Hentsch and A. Pinard) and the private banking establishments
that the interlinked Bischoft`sheim, Goldschmidt and Bamberger families
from Mainz had been setting up across Europe since the 1820s;
Banque de Paris, which had been formed in Paris in 1869 by bankers and
financiers such as A. Delahante. E. Joubert and H Cernilschi Its founders
included a number of other private bankers such as E. Gouin of the Loire-valley
city of Tours, E. Fouid, E. Schnapper and A. Stern of Paris, Brugmann of
Brussels, and Tietgen of Copenhagen.
During its first year of existence, the new bank joined forces with Crédit
Lyonnais to head the financial consortium set up to float one-third of
the second great war-indemnity loan of 3 billion francs for the French
government The major part of the funds raised by Banque de Paris et des
Pays-Bas came through its European branches -more particularly its Brussels
outlet- as a result of the close relations established with certain German
In 1878, the bank's capital was reduced to 62.5 million francs (the
volume of paid-in capital). It was then increased to 80 million francs
in 1907, and to 100 million francs in 1912. By this time, the bank had
become France's leading 'banque d'affaires' in terms of equity base and
volume of business.
Its most important role by far was that of financial intermediary.
This generated 70 per cent of profits between 1909 and 1913, as the bank
led or participated in government loan issues, and in share or bond issues
for French and foreign private companies. Most noteworthy among these were:
government loans for France, Belgium and their respective colonial empires;
public loan issues in France or Imperial Russia (from 1888 onwards);
issues for the Balkan states (often in association with German banks),
for the Scandinavian countries and for Morocco;
- issues in the 1880s and 1900s for Latin America (frequently in association
with British houses such as Barings).
At the same time, interests were being acquired in industrial concerns
and public utilities: railways (Spain, Russia); tramways and electricity
(Belgium, France, Egypt, Morocco, the Ottoman Empire); iron and steel (France,
Russia); and chemical plants (Norway's Norvégienne de l'Azote).
Meanwhile the bank was also building up a large portfolio of securities
of its own, with a view to acquiring fruitful long-term interests in certain
key sectors such as banking or those of industrial clients, in France and
above all abroad.
In Europe: More than half of the portfolio consisted in holdings
in companies in Europe (France. Belgium, southern Europe, then Russia and
the Balkan states from 1890 onwards) And a large number of interests were
acquired in banks, either new or existing: Banco Espanol de Credito in
Spain, Banca Commerciale Italiana, Banque RussoAsiatique (the leading Russian
bank at the time); also in banks in Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia.
Outside Europe: the principal areas were the Middle East (Egypt
and Turkey) and the Americas, also Asia and Africa. The bank helped to
set up, or acquired interests in Crédit FoncierFranco-Canadien;
Banque Française et Italienne pour l'Amérique du Sud; Banque
Franco-Japonaise; and Banque d 'Etat du Maroc, which the bank helped to
Banking services, including discounting and overdraft facilities for companies,
remained on a modest scale up to the end of the century, when they started
to figure, though to a limited extent, in the bank's business.
In correspondent banking, however, the bank was active, establishing
links notably with Barings, with Deutsche Bank, with Wiener Bankverein
in Austria, and Kuhn Loeb in the United States.
During the First World War, Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas helped
to mobilize the nation's capital and savings for the war effort (through
war loans and the 'Bons de la Défense Nationale'), and it played
its part in negotiations to open credit accounts for the French Treasury
in Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden. It also helped to raise
finance for the weaponry industry (Compagnie Nationale de Matières
Colorantes et de Produits Chimiques).
impact of inflation during the 1920s, combined with the reconstruction
effort and moves to expand the bank's activities under the guidance of
Horace Finaly (at the head of the bank from 1919 to 1937), led to successive
increases in the bank's capital base, which had reached 300 million francs
by 1929 (from 150 million francs in 1919 to 200 million in 1921).
As placing capacity for foreign securities in the French and Belgian
markets declined, so also did the volume of international financing transactions.
The bank therefore increased its focus on the domestic and colonial markets
and on the search for new areas of banking business, especially in services
for companies with which it had existing links.
On the international front, the bank handled reconstruction or
stabilization loans floated partially in France for Austria, Poland, Romania
(as lead bank for the 1928 and 1931 issues) and Czechoslovakia, as well
as Belgian issues in France (1923, 1932, 1933). then French issues abroad
(the Netherlands) during the second half the 1930s, and colonial loans.
It was helping to stimulate investment in the colonial empires, at
the same time, -more particularly that of France- through two holding companies:
Compagnie Générale du Maroc and Compagnie Générale
des Colonies, which provided finance for public utilities and a range of
Expanding its relations with industry,the bank was active in
lending, in equity investments and in setting up of companies.
In the oil industry, Compagnie Française des Pétroles
and Standard Franco-Américaine were formed, and the bank helped
bring Steaua Rornana and Omnium International des Pétroles into
Other key areas were electricity production and distribution, electrical
haulage and electrical equipment engineering (the forming of Electrobel
and Union d'Electricité); also communication, with Havas, Hachette
and Compagnie Générale de TSF.
This period saw a reduction in the volume of foreign holdings in the portfolio,
counterbalanced by an increase in interests in French and colonial concerns.
Through Banque des Pays de l 'Europe Centrale, however, Banque de Paris
et des Pays-Bas was still playing a substantial role in Austria, Czechoslovakia
and Romania, also in Poland (through Banque Franco-Polonaise). Important
positions were safeguarded in America and in the Middle East (an interest
in Ottoman Bank was acquired in 1920).
Inflation during the Second World War seriously eroded the increases
in the bank's capital, which had been raised to 450 million francs in 1941,
then to 675 million francs in 1943. It was a time of slack business. The
bank was cut off from its affiliates and correspondent banking partners
in the allied countries and it lost a portion of its foreign assets in
Central Europe and Norway. Nevertheless it helped in the development of
industrial patents for such products as alternative fuels, gasproducing
substances and oil-shale.
Since its merchant-banking profile had enabled it to sidestep nationalization
in 1945, Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas was able
to take full advantage of the legislation of 2 December 1945 and 17 May
1946, which ratified the status of a full-service bank. The bank was thus
poised to develop its activities freely in commercial banking for French
companies and, before long, on an international scale.
The first task was reconstruction and modernization in France,
and by 1948 the bank was forming the OTH, a consultancy firm that was to
be pivotal in the setting up by Paribas of France's second-largest property
Next, the bank directed its energies towards the restructuring effort
in the French industrial sectoraimed at ensuring that French companies
were ready to face international competition in the newly emerging fields
of information-systems (Bull) and electronics (the successive link-ups
between Thomson, Brandt and CSF). The bank was equally active in metallurgy,
iron and steel and mining (Nord-Est, Usinor), in mechanical and electrical
engineering (Fives-Lille-Cail, Babcock, Neyrpic, Alsthom), in publishing
(Hachette), and in tourism (CET, Club Méditerranée, Wagons
Lits). Meanwhile it was continuing to play its predominant role in the
energy sector (oil, nuclear engineering).
By the 1950s, the bank was providing crucial back-up for French industrial
companies wishing to export to the developing countries, and notably
to Latin America. It pioneered new medium-term export-credit mechanisms that
were to enable French manufacturers of capital equipment to win major deals.
These were seen in the iron and steel industry in Latin America (Colombia,
Peru, Brazil), in the electrical domain (Cabora Bassa in Mozambique), in
petrochemicals (Neste Oy in Finland), then, in the much later 1970s and
1980s, in Venezuela with the Caracas metro, and in aircraft and aviation
(Airbus); also in the Far East, Central Europe, the USSR and in the Middle
East, notably in Iran where Paribas became a Bank of Teheran shareholder
In the industrial field, and under the guidance of Jean Reyre, managing
director from 1948 to 1966 and then chairman up to 1969, the bank was also
becoming a very potent force in a wide range of businesses: paper (La Rochette,
Darblay); petroleum (Sogedip, Coparex, Total, Aquitaine); chemicals (Pierrefitte-Auby),
pharmaceuticals (Labaz); public works (Fougerolle): shipbuilding (Chantiers
de Bretagne); retail and distribution (Nouvelles Galeries, Prénatal.
SCOA, FNAC): construction materials (Ciments Français) and agribusiness
(Bonduelle, BSN). Meanwhile, Sema, formed in 1957 (and subsequently to
become Metra International, in 1970), was now over its teething troubles
and well on the way to the eminent position it now boasts in data-processing
consultancy. During the 1970s and 1980s, the bank initiated projects involving
communications (Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Télédiffusion,
Sofinergie, UGC), advanced technology and venture capital (Transgène,
In 1968, the group made changes in its structure prompted by
the Debré legislation of 1966. The former «Banque de Paris
et des Pays-Bas» became Compagnie Financière (Paribas since
1982), and it was now a holding company with interests in the banking,
financial, industrial and international spheres. In a move initiated by
Jacques de Fouchier, the group's chairman since 1969, the link-up took
place with the mortgage and consumer finance group Compagnie Bancaire (in
which Paribas held a 45 per cent interest from 1978 onwards). At the start
of the1990s, Paribas became the chief shareholder in Crédit du Nord
which had meanwhile merged with Banque de l Union Parisienne. In parallel,
the expansion of the bank's network beyond its existing outlets in Paris
and Marseilles to the wider Paris region and other provincial cities commenced
Outside France, a Paribas investment bank was opened in New York at
the start of the 1960s, followed by subsidiaries in London and Luxemburg
in 1964. Under the guidance of Jacques de Fouchier. and subsequently Pierre
Moussa, chairman of the group from 1978 to 1981. it went on to build up
a worldwide network of banking subsidiaries and branches during
the 1970s. First came the Middle East. France followed by the Far East,
the United States and Canada. The European network, for its part, was continuing
to thrive, particularly through the Brussels and Geneva operations, and
its expansion went on until well into the 1980s, bringing new offices in
Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, the Scandinavian countries and Ireland.
The bank had opened an office in Moscow in 1964.
In Africa, Paribas had placed its focus on the exploiting of natural
resources: Sahara oil during the 1950s (Finarep, Genarep, Coparex) and
mining in West Africa (Taiba phosphates, Congo manganese-Comilog). Its
principal holdings in Africa and overseas were grouped together within
Cegepar and Cofimer. During the 1960s and 1970s and the decolonization
process, Paribas was on the scene with its back-up, notably in Algeria
and Morocco. Subsidiaries or branches were opened in Morocco, in west and
central Africa, and in Egypt.
Continuing in its very active role on the French financial markets,
Paribas also became an increasingly prominent player in the worldwide Eurobond
market during the second half of the 1960s. Its capital markets activities
grew steadily, with a global approach, from 1980 onwards. Paribas became
a top-ranking name, notably in bonds and swaps, and placed itself firmly
in the lead for écu issues. The move initiated by Chairman Jean-Yves
Haberer to open Bangue Paribas Capital Markets in London, with its offices
in New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Frankfurt and Paris, did much to underpin
the building up of such new business segments.
The 1970s and 1980s also saw growth in Paribas' asset management
services to private and institutional clients, traditionally focused
on Geneva since the nineteenth century, but more recently bringing in Luxemburg,
Paris, New York and Tokyo through the forming of Paribas Asset Management
Towards the close of the 1970s, Paribas became increasingly involved
in oil trade financing. Operating chiefly out of Geneva, New York, London
and Paris, it very soon won renown as the world's leader in this sector.
At the same time, Paribas established closer relations during the 1960s
and 1970s with the South African group AngloAmerican, then with Bank of
America (Ameribas), Bayerische Vereinsbank and NatWest. During the 1970s,
Paribas formed an alliance with S.G. Warburg, in which it owned a 25 per
cent interest, and together they set up the Warburg Paribas Becker investment
bank in the United States. This was taken over in 1984 by Merrill Lynch,
in which Paribas acquired a shareholding at that point.
Following the four years of nationalization (1982-86), during which
Paribas had progressed under the chairmanship of Jean-Yves Haberer, its
privatization came in 1987. The operation took place under the chairmanship
of Michel François-Poncet and was highly successful. It brought
in 3.8 million individual shareholders, alongside large French and foreign
groups such as Axa, AGF, UAP, Comit, Parfinance (Frère in Belgium,
Power in Canada), Sumitomo Life, and Kuweit Investment Authority. Some
had already been Paribas shareholders before nationalization.
In 1990, the Paribas Group initiated organizational changes, which were
completed in 1991. The boards of directors of Compagnie Financière
de Paribas and of Banque Paribas were replaced by supervisory boards, while
their senior management bodies became management boards. The chairmen of
the two companies' supervisory boards and management boards are respectively
Michel François-Poncet and André Lévy-Lang.