Paribas in the US 2/2 : a strategy true to its international tradition

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BNP Paribas Historical Archives

BNP Paribas Historical Archives

From the beginning of the 19th century, La Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas (Paribas) was a very important player on the international market, particularly the US and in Latin America (financing of railways, among other things).

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, 1875 - New York Public Library Digital Collections
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, 1875 – New York Public Library Digital Collections

1960 : Foundation of Paribas Corporation in New York

The implementation of the Marshall Plan in 1947 brought the bank closer to the US, and in 1960, Jean Reyre took the initiative, supported by his Wall Street friends (the Lehmans), to create an investment bank in New York called Paribas Corporation. This would be followed soon after, in 1964, by a subsidiary in London. It was an opportunity for Paribas to get to know the Anglo-American methods that would thereafter dominate the world of international finance (euro-bonds, etc).

Jean Reyre - BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Jean Reyre – BNP Paribas Historical Archives

Warburg-Paribas-Becker

In the 1970s, Paribas formed an alliance with S.G. Warburg, the leading British merchant bank that was at the origin of the development of the Euro-Dollar market. In 1974, they decided to join forces with a US investment bank in Chicago—A.G. Becker, which specialised in commercial paper financing. Paribas Corporation was merged into a new joint entity with Warburg and Becker in New York.

After a few years, due to a lack of joint vision between the three partners, Warburg-Paribas-Becker was sold in 1984 to Merrill Lynch, of which Paribas became a shareholder.

New York, 1980 – New York Public Library Digital Collections
New York, 1980 – New York Public Library Digital Collections

Ameribas

At the same time, the Bank of America, which was looking to gain a foothold on the international financial markets, sought a partnership with Paribas. A financial vehicle to facilitate the placement of bonds issued by European companies—Ameribas—was created in Luxembourg, followed by Banque Ameribas, which introduced Americans to a French-style investment bank.

The deployment of a banking network in the US

In 1978, the International Banking Act marked a vital turning point: it allowed subsidiaries of foreign banking establishments to operate their business within a single regulatory framework for all countries, on an equal footing with their American counterparts. Paribas was authorised to do business, and as a result, established itself in major US cities, first in New York, then in Chicago and Miami, etc.

Michel François-Poncet, the future CEO of Paribas, was the main driver behind these moves. This network chiefly grew in the financing of oil trading and in the public utilities sector. In 1987, Paribas created a specialised Media and Cinema department in Los Angeles, which would participate in the financing of major American films.

Making a movie, California, 1930s - From the New York Public Library Digital Collections
Making a movie, California, 1930s – From the New York Public Library Digital Collections

In the mergers and acquisitions area, we should finally point out the major role played in 1997 by Paribas, whose links with insurance group Equitable Life enabled this company to be acquired by the AXA Group.

In 2000, after Paribas was taken over by BNP, the two banks merged their structures to form one entity under the name of BNP Paribas.


Don’t miss out the beginning of Paribas history in the US

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