BNP Paribas this morning announced its purchase of the Fortis Bank's Belgian operation.  The good news for Fortis retail outlet employees is that there will most probably be no danger of losing their jobs.  BNP has a very small presence in Belgium so there will be no cost savings to make from eliminating overlapping agencies or by making redundancies.  Life has been hard for many Fortis employees over the past couple of weeks, especially with the humiliation of having to sell ABN Amro at less than half what was paid little over a year ago.  So I hope they will be able to breathe a sigh of relief this morning and see this as a light at the end of the tunnel.  The fact that the Belgian State is now a shareholder in BNP Paribas should help Belgians to avoid the feeling that another important part of their economy, after Electrabel, has disappeared into French ownership. 

On October 2 Global Finance magazine ranked BNP Paribas as one of the World's strongest banks.  With the Belgian State now owning 12% of the Bank, as a result of the Fortis Deal, BNP Paribas would in all likelihood be rated even stronger only eight days later.  The Universal Banking model it has adhered to over the past few years and its strong deposit base have positioned it well to make more take-overs.  This morning it has let it be known that the next purchases will perhaps be in the United States, through its small Bancwest subsidiary.



The sub-prime meltdown has, in effect, had little direct impact on the French housing market.  A few banks such as Dexia, Natixis and the Credit Agricole have suffered from exposure to highly leveraged products generated in the United States but the biggest French banks such as SocGen and BNP Paribas have not suffered inordinately.

Nonetheless the knock-on effects of the credit squeeze are now having a negative effect on the availability of credit for such products as bridging loans.  Real Estate agents report that sellers are still trying to get the same prices as they did nine months ago and that buyers are having to prove much more credit-worthy than in 2007 before they can find a loan.  Niche markets such as those in the Dordogne, where many of the sales are restricted to British people buying and selling among each other are being badly affected by the plunge in UK house prices.