Paribas reels as London chief becomes latest to quit

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THE HEAD of Paribas's London operation, Robert de Metz, yesterday quit, dealing a further blow to the French investment bank which has suffered a stream of high-profile departures since it fell to a hostile takeover bid from the French banking giant Banque Nationale de Paris in September.

Mr de Metz's resignation follows the departure last week of Anthony Bourne, global head of equities, who has gone to set up an equity business at Hawkpoint, the former Hambro Magan. Veronique Guillot-Pelpel, the head of communications and human resources, also resigned last week. Ms Guillot- Pelpel was a close associate of Andre Levy-Lang, the former Paribas chairman who quit within a week of BNP taking control.

Mr de Metz, who was immediately replaced by Pascal Boris, the head of UK corporate banking, is the fifth member of Paribas's 11-man executive board to leave the bank in the three months since BNP took control. Bankers say that morale at Paribas has hit rock bottom, despite strenuous efforts by Michel Pebereau, the BNP chairman, to lock in key members of staff.

So far this year, around a half of Paribas' 100 European equity analysts have quit, with most resignations in London and Frankfurt. Business has also suffered with Paribas dropping to 23rd in the European equity underwriting league tables in the first nine months of the year, down from seventh last year. There have been fewer defections on the bond underwriting side - a traditional Paribas strength. The bank ranked seventh in arranging eurobonds as of the first 11 months of the year, according to Thomson Financial.

BNP won Paribas by default after a bruising nine-month takeover battle, triggered when attempts by Mr Levy-Lang to merge Paribas with rival Societe Generale got the thumbs-down from investors. BNP stepped in to bid for SocGen, but because of an arcane provision in French takeover rules was forced to bid simultaneously for both SocGen and Paribas.

For much of the battle Mr Pebereau was preaching the merits of a retail banking combination and has since struggled to convince staff he has a convincing strategy for investment banking.