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France: State ownership fosters international ambitions

While other state banking groups in Europe cast covetous eyes at Calyon, the investment banking arm of the Credit Agricole group, CNCE's Ixis is surprising many with its ambition.

The financial cornershop

If Germany's public-sector banks appear cautious about how to address the potential of investment banking, there is no such bashfulness among France's leading state-owned or partly state-owned entities.

Strictly speaking, Crédit Agricole's ambitious investment bank, Calyon, does not fall into this category, given that it is owned by CA SA, which is the listed central body of Crédit Agricole. Nevertheless, as a recently established subsidiary of one of Europe's largest universal retail banks, Calyon's explosive growth is being monitored closely by Europe's cooperative and savings banks, many of which clearly see the French newcomer as something of a benchmark.

That's little wonder, given the confidence with which Calyon has described its track record to date and articulated its ambitions for the future. "Calyon has joined the leading group of major European corporate and investment banks," it announced at a presentation in June marking the first anniversary of its creation. At the same time, it outlined a cluster of targets that it described as "realistic and ambitious". Those included rapidly winning market share overseas, increasing net banking income to €4.7 billion in 2007 from €3.71 billion in 2004, lifting return on equity over the same period to 15% from 13.7%

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