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Opinion

BNP Paribas and Soc Gen: A marriage of inconvenience?

A merger of BNP Paribas and Société Générale would be difficult to fund and to execute.

There is no shortage of M&A bankers who would like to see a merger between BNP Paribas and Société Générale. Such a deal, they all agree, would make wonderful sense, as it would create a true French champion with a solid domestic retail base.

BNP Paribas’ decision to hold back from bidding for its stricken rival, however, is prudent, not least because a hostile bid would have faced enormous difficulties. Even a friendly one might not have been possible.

At the heart of the problem are the two groups’ investment banks, which overlap like twins. One might like tennis while the other prefers rugby, but they are very similar in most other respects. The process of combining the two would be fraught with difficulties and would likely lead to a substantial loss of market share.

Breaking off the unit and selling it to another buyer is also probably easier said than done in the present slowdown, while BNP Paribas might also be wary about selling its most important domestic investment banking rival to a potential competitor.

The state of the markets also makes it an inopportune moment to ask for the €48 billion or so that BNP Paribas might need to raise in order to fund a bid.

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