BNP Paribas is one of the main banks in Europe. It was created on 23 May 2000 through the merger of Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) and Paribas. Together with Société Générale and Crédit Lyonnais (now known as LCL), it is one of the "three old" banks of France. It is a constituent of the CAC 40 index.
On 9 August 2007, BNP Paribas announced that it could not fairly value the underlying assets in three funds as a result of exposure to U.S. subprime mortgage lending markets. Faced with potentially massive (though unquantifiable) exposure, the European Central Bank (ECB) immediately stepped in to ease market worries by opening lines of €96.8 billion (then US$130 billion) in low-interest credit. The long term debt of the group is currently ranked AA+ by S&P, Aa1 by Moody's and AA by Fitch.
After the end of World War II, the French State decided to "put banks and credit to work for national reconstruction". René Pleven, then Minister of Finance, launched a massive reorganization of the banking industry. A law passed on 2 December 1945 redefined the regulatory framework governing the industry and decreed the nationalization of the Banque de France and the four leading French retail banks: BNCI, CNEP, Crédit Lyonnais and Société Générale. It went into effect on 1 January 1946.
Shares in these companies were transferred to the French State, which assumed complete ownership of the financial institutions. The boards of directors were dissolved and twelve new directors were appointed at each bank. BNCI and CNEP were merged in 1966 to form BNP.
BNP was privatised in 1993.
Originally the Compagnie Financière de Paris et des Pays-Bas (Finance Corporation of Paris and the Netherlands), the Compagnie Financière de Paribas became simply Paribas in 1998 after acquiring the Compagnie Bancaire. Claude de Kemoularia was an important executive in the bank in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1999, BNP and Société Générale fought a complex battle on the stock market, with Société Générale bidding for Paribas and BNP bidding for Société Générale and counter-bidding for Paribas. BNP's bid for Société Générale failed, while its bid for Paribas succeeded leading to a merger of BNP and Paribas one year later on 22 May 2000.
In France, BNP Paribas is active in retail banking with 2,200 branches and over 3,200 ATM machines. In Paris alone the Bank has 187 agencies. BNP Paribas serves over 6 million French households and 60,000 corporate customers.
In the United States, BNP Paribas owns Bank of the West. It also has investment banking capabilities via its BancWest subsidiary. In particular, it is strong in equity derivatives, structured products and project finance. In addition, BNP Paribas maintains a strong middle market merchant banking group. This group focuses on providing leveraged acquisition finance to private equity sponsored leveraged buyouts, both through senior secured syndicated loans, high yield bond offerings, equity co-investment, and mezzanine financing.
BNP Paribas is a member of the Global ATM Alliance, a joint venture of several major international banks that allows customers of the banks to use their ATM card or check card at another bank within the Global ATM Alliance with no fees when traveling internationally. Other participating banks are Barclays (United Kingdom), Bank of America (United States), China Construction Bank (China), Deutsche Bank (Germany), Santander Serfin (Mexico), Scotiabank (Canada) and Westpac (Australia and New Zealand).
On 11 June 2008, BNP Paribas formally signed the final terms of an agreement to purchase the Prime Brokerage Services division of Banc of America Securities. The sale is widely believed to be completed by the end of the 3rd Quarter, 2008.
On 23 September 2005, BNP Paribas was set to take a 20 percent stake in China's Nanjing City Commercial Bank, a Chinese official and state press reports said. "BNP is going to sign a deal with us to buy a stake next month," an official from Nanjing City Commercial told AFP. The Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post said BNP would pay up to US$100 million, although the bank official said the figure was incorrect. He declined to give further details. The French newspaper La Tribune reported in August 2005 that BNP Paribas had talked to four Chinese commercial banks—Ningbo, Wuxi, Nanjing and Suzhou—and was prepared to invest US$50–100 million. "We've talked to different financial institutions, but only BNP showed its good faith. It was not easy for us to reach an agreement," the Nanjing City Commercial Bank official said. BNP Paribas refused to comment. The International Financial Corporation, the investment arm of the World Bank, already owns 15 percent of Nanjing City Commercial Bank, which has regulatory approval to list on the country's domestic stock markets.