One of Europe's largest banks, BNP Paribas operates about 7,300 branches in more than 80 countries across Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia. The company and its myriad subsidiaries specialize in retail banking, corporate and investment banking, and investment services. It operates in Italy through BNL banca commerciale. BNP Paribas also owns a majority stake in Belgium's BNP Paribas Fortis, which operates more than 1,000 branches in Europe and the US. In the western US the company owns BancWest (the parent of Bank of the West and First Hawaiian Bank). BNP Paribas earns more than half of its revenue outside its home country of France.
BNP Paribas' Investment Solutions division includes BNP Paribas Securities, BNP Paribas Wealth Management, and insurance firms BNP Paribas Cardif and Pinnacle Insurance (Cardif Pinnacle).
Other holdings include private bank BNP Paribas Banque Privée, consumer lender Cetelem, online brokerage Cortal Consors, BNP Paribas Asset Management.
Major acquisitions in recent years have turned BNP Paribas into a leading bank in the euro zone and beyond. The company has expanded its operations into about a dozen countries since 2004.
Two of the most tranformative acquisitions include the deal to buy Italian bank BNL in 2006 and the 75% purchase of Fortis Bank (which also included a 25% stake in Fortis Insurance). Both deals boosted BNP Paribas' retail banking business across Europe. Retail banking is now responsible for some 50% of BNP Paribas' revenues.
In addition to the Fortis and BNL acquisitions, BNP Paribas looked to grow in new markets. BNP Paribas acquired Sahara Bank in Libya and a 51% stake in UkrSibbank, one of Ukraine's leading banks. In 2011 BNP Paribas continued its strategy of expanding in high growth markets and acquired a majority of South Africa's Cadiz Securities. BNP Paribas also owns Banque Internationale pour le Commerce et l'Industrie, which is active in six African nations, and a majority of Türk Ekonomi Bankasi in Turkey. BNP Paribas has been expanding in China, Egypt, Israel, and Russia as well.
In 2010 BNP Paribas acquired US investment bank Hill Street Capital, which became part of BNP Paribas Securities. The acquisition solidified the firm's mergers and acquisitions practices and other corporate advisory services in North and South America.
Despite all of this growth, BNP Paribas has not been immune to difficulties in the banking sector, especially in Europe where banks were exposed to sovereign debt. While retail banking remained strong, BNP Paribas saw declines in its corporate and investment banking unit due to poor market conditions and losses on sales of sovereign bond debt. Like its peers, the company announced job cuts in 2011. It also plans to cut some 10% of its total assets, most of which will come from its investment and corporate banking operations. Also that year BNP Paribas sold its private investment management operations in the UK to Evolution Group's Williams de Broe.
The challenges of that year continued when BNP Paribas took a €3 billion ($4.1 billion) hit after it marked down the value of its Greek debt by about 60%. It also reduced exposure to other European government debt in places such as Italy and Spain.
In 2012 the comany sold the bulk of its controlling stake in real estate firm Klépierre to US mall owner Simon for some €1.5 billion (around $2 billion) to further raise its capital levels.
The Belgian government owns about 10% of BNP Paribas. – less