BNP Paribas Said to Weigh Job Cuts in Mideast After Slowdown

  • Bank may cut more than 100 jobs of about 560 in the region
  • BNP one of last main banks to have Mideast base in Bahrain

BNP Paribas SA is considering job cuts in the Middle East as its investment banking business in the region slows, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

France’s largest bank may cut more than 100 of about 560 staff in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, with most reductions expected to occur in Bahrain, the regional headquarters, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Bahrain is BNP Paribas’s Middle East hub, including back-office and support functions.

BNP Paribas is reorganizing its investment bank, run by Yann Gerardin, to cut costs as global lenders face stricter rules and rising compliance needs. The lender enlisted Oliver Wyman and Boston Consulting Group to work on the revamp, dubbed “CIB of tomorrow,” people with knowledge of the matter said this year. The bank in 2014 combined its GCC operations into an expanded Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

Bahrain Hub

In the Middle East, BNP Paribas is one of the last international banks to run its operations from Bahrain, the smallest member of the six-nation GCC and host to the U.S. Fifth Fleet. The island kingdom, which experienced unrest after the 2011 Arab Spring, has seen banks including Credit Agricole SA leave or reduce operations. Most banks have their regional headquarters in Dubai, the financial hub for the Middle East.

The bank’s revenue in the GCC, which includes Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, was 121 million euros ($135 million) last year, according to company filings. In Bahrain, revenue for the period was 54 million euros.

BNP Paribas has been the 17th-biggest arranger of bonds in the GCC region this year and last, down from 11th in 2013 and sixth in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It’s also slipped to become the 20th-largest debt underwriter in the region, down from 17th last year and ninth in 2013, the data shows.

Gulf economies, which hold about a third of the world’s crude reserves, are seeking to halt erosion of their finances after oil prices plunged. Many states are planning to cut spending and raise debt to counter the drop. Brent crude, which has averaged $102 a barrel since the end of 2009, is now trading below $50.

Jean-Christophe Durand, who anchored BNP Paribas’s Gulf operations in Bahrain over the past decade, left the bank in August. Jacques Michel, formerly BNP’s country head for India, replaced him.

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