“In Africa, we have adopted a targeted strategy and continue to strengthen our position where the characteristics of the market correspond well to our strengths and the desired conditions in terms of development and risk management,” said the BNP Paribas head office in France.
Officially, the leading French banking group in terms of assets, which made a net profit of more than 9.5 billion euros (10.5 billion dollars) in 2021 and still has seven offices in Africa*, continues to consider the continent as part of its “international apparatus”. However, the facts and the dynamics of the disposals underway for the past three years say the opposite.
As revealed by Business Africa+ At the end of February, BNP Paribas agreed to sell its 54.11% subsidiary in Senegal, also known as Terre de teranga (hospitality). As such, the French bank is preparing to sell its shares in its subsidiary International Bank for Commerce and Industry of Senegal (Bicis) to a currently unidentified buyer.
The sixth bank of Senegal
According to our information, the bank decided to withdraw after the Republic of Senegal announced that it would reduce its stake. Indeed, at the end of December 2020, the State held nearly 25% of the capital of Bicis against 42% during its partial privatization in 1991.
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It should be noted that the plan to sell the Senegalese subsidiary, mentioned during an exceptional executive committee at the end of February, is also as part of the group’s refocusing strategy.
La Bicis, Senegal’s sixth-largest bank in terms of total balance sheet, recorded net banking income (NBI) of €52 million ($57.6 million) last year, or 3.5 times less than that of the leading subsidiary. African Group (South Africa). Bicis remains the worst performer of the two remaining BNP subsidiaries in West Africa, as the International Bank for Trade and Industry of Côte d’Ivoire (Bicici) generated €70 million ($77.5 million) in NBI in 2021.
Refocusing in Europe and Asia
“In recent months, there have been increasing signs of a refocusing of the group’s activity,” confides one of the bank’s African executives, who wishes to remain anonymous. “This does not only concern Africa, because the group wants to focus on Europe and Asia”, he specifies, recalling the orientation of the 2020-2025 strategic plan of the French bank.
Indeed, at the end of December, BNP Paribas sold its American bank Bank of the West for more than 16 billion dollars and officially withdrew from the American retail banking market after more than 40 years of presence.
On the continent, BNP Paribas sold its Burkinabé (Biciab) and Guinean (Bicigui) subsidiaries last July to the Vista Bank group of Simon Tiemtoré. One year ago, the banking group sold its stakes in Gabon, Mali and the Comoros to its Ivorian partner Atlantic Financial Group, headed by Koné Dossongui.
In Tunisia, it took more than two years to finalize the sale of majority control of its subsidiary Banking Union for Commerce and Industry (UBCI), a process that began in 2019.
Special cases of Algeria, Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire
Today, and for retail banking (the establishments in Southern Africa are dedicated to the “personal finance” activity), BNP’s strengths are therefore concentrated solely in North Africa and West Africa for the Senegal and Ivory Coast.
Since the sale in Senegal will be finalized soon, only Côte d’Ivoire will remain. While internal sources claim that only Bicis is currently in discussion, the Parisian holding company neither confirms nor denies the rumor of a departure from Côte d’Ivoire.
Even if Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal are part of the Europe-Mediterranean zone of the BNP [as are Morocco and Algeria]the bank is closer to North African establishments…
Ranked among the top five banks in the country, the Ivorian subsidiary of BNP achieved a NBI of €70m ($77.5m) in 2021, after having managed to maintain it at nearly €68m ($75m). in 2020, at the height of the health crisis.
However, this strategy goes beyond mere results. “Even if the Ivory Coast and Senegal are part of the Europe-Mediterranean zone of the BNP [as are Morocco and Algeria]the bank is closer to the North African establishments, and the investments made in these subsidiaries, particularly in the area of IT, prove this”, explains a manager.
Indeed, in 2021, Morocco weighed the most in the balance after recording NBI of €278 million ($308 million), i.e. a result four times higher than that of the first subsidiary in West Africa.
BNP Paribas’ strategic plan expires in 2025, so there is still time to look ahead.
* As of December 31, 2021, BNP Paribas was present in South Africa, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Namibia, as well as Morocco, Senegal and Botswana.