Paribas staff leave in droves as bid war rages

INVESTMENT BANKING rivals are taking advantage of the uncertainty surrounding the fate of Paribas, the French bank, to poach mounting numbers of key staff as the three-way bid battle which has riven the French banking sector for most of this year moves into its sixth month.

Following a mass defection to Deutsche Bank from the bank's Frankfurt office last week, staff from the bank's Amsterdam office are also said to be leaving "en masse".

The latest departures come as Societe Generale debates whether to sweeten its bid for Paribas for the second time. Its board meets today to discuss its reaction to the higher offer from rival Banque Nationale de Paris, which was approved last week.

Andre Levy-Lang, Paribas chairman, said at the weekend he saw no need for SocGen to improve its offer terms in the wake of the higher bid. Analysts believe SocGen will sweeten its terms but say it may wait until nearer the 30 July closing date before making its final move.

The fact that the result of the battle is unlikely to be known before early August is continuing to weigh on morale at Paribas, where a string of staff losses have left the London office reeling.

Recent weeks have seen the departure of Anthony Bourne, the head of global equities, after 12 years at the bank, and a raft of well respected equity analysts. These include Mark Dichlian, a senior technology analyst, who has gone to rival Lehman Brothers, Laurent Carozzi, media analyst, Darren Shaw, European building materials analyst, and Chiara Tirloni, a motors analyst.

The continued haemorrhage comes despite claims by the chairman Andre Levy-Lang that there have been no "unusual" departures during the bid battle, which has raged since Banque Nationale attempted to thwart the agreed merger between Paribas and SocGen with its own three-way plan to create a French mega-bank with one trillion euro of assets. Paribas has said it plans to cuts thousands of jobs if its planned merger with SocGen goes through.

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