BNP looks to smaller banks for mainland opportunities

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2005, 12:00am

French giant poised to take maximum possible stake in Nanjing City Bank

A senior executive at French banking giant BNP Paribas has laid down a few ground rules before the bank makes its first major investment in the mainland.

Speaking in Hong Kong yesterday, Alain Papiasse, a member of BNP's executive committee and head of asset management and services, said it would not follow Bank of America and the Royal Bank of Scotland, investing billions of dollars for a minority stake in China's big four state-owned banks.

'The only thing that the group is not comfortable with is spending billions to invest in a small stake of anything,' said Mr Papiasse. 'If we are not in control, then we prefer a moderate investment.'

He said there were now two types of foreign banks looking for opportunities on the mainland.

'The first type would try to invest a lot of money for a very small stake in a large national bank, while the second type would rather invest a small amount in a small regional bank. We definitely belong to the second group.'

Mainland regulations allow foreign banks and brokerages to hold a maximum of 20 per cent in any domestic financial institutions.

Mr Papiasse confirmed that the group is now on the verge of an agreement to take a stake in a regional bank, as mainland media has earlier reported, saying that it was likely to make an announcement 'within weeks'.

The Shanghai Oriental Morning Post last month said the French group was preparing to take a 20 per cent stake in Nanjing City Commercial Bank this month.

Mr Papiasse also identified online brokerages on the mainland and in India as two of the Asian markets in which the group had seen great potential. He said the bank would look for partners or acquisitions in the two countries that could provide it with distribution channels for its platforms.

'In a lot of the emerging market countries, especially on the mainland and in India, the young population will want to access the stock market through the internet,' Mr Papiasse explained.

'They are young people who like to have freedom and a little bit of advice while they are investing.'

BNP is one of the largest online brokerages in Europe and supplies its trading platform to many other banks globally. It has over 1,000 external partners and distributors.