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Tue 16 Aug 2011 06:59 PM

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BNP Paribas plans to move some staff from Bahrain

French lender eyes move for back-office operations out of regional finance hub after unrest - sources

BNP Paribas plans to move some staff from Bahrain
BNP may boost staff in existing Gulf offices, such as Saudi and Dubai, at the expense of Bahrain

French lender BNP Paribas plans to move some of its back-office operations out of regional hub Bahrain after unrest in the kingdom earlier this year, two sources said on Tuesday.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said BNP may boost existing Gulf locations such as Dubai, Doha and Riyadh at the expense of Bahrain, though one said that a complete exit from the country, where it employs 383 staff, was unlikely.

The sources said they did not know how many employees would be affected by the proposed moves. A BNP Paribas spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

Operations that could be moved include payments, some accounting and finance functions, and other non-client-facing roles, the sources said.

"I think it is mainly back-office operations that would be moved," said one, adding that any moves could take between six and nine months.

A third source said the bank was also considering spreading its contingency operations across several locations, following the unrest.

BNP has operated in the Gulf Arab region for more than 30 years, with smaller presences in other countries.

Bahrain, a small non-OPEC oil producer was thrown into turmoil in February when protesters, mostly majority Shi'ites, took to the streets demanding democratic reforms in the Sunni-ruled state.

The intensity of the political upheaval led several international companies to re-evaluate their presence in Bahrain.

Another French lender, Credit Agricole , intends to shift its regional headquarters out of Bahrain, into the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

"The move to Dubai is expected to be between March and June 2012," said a separate source, adding that Credit Agricole has about 55 employees in its Bahrain office.

"About 90 percent of them will be moved to the DIFC."

He said that the company may still keep a small office in Bahrain but most staff and operations would be moved.

Credit Agricole declined to comment on the matter.

In August, Fitch Ratings removed Bahrain from a negative rating watch following the lifting of a state of emergency, after a similar ratings action by Standard & Poor's.

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