France received two separate loans: the first, for an amount of 30 million guilders, was part of the financial agreements concluded in December 1918 with the allied powers. The second, for a sum of 25 million guilders, stemmed from the readiness of the Netherlands to take part in the reconstruction of the devastated regions in the North of France71. The Amsterdam branch of the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas participated in these two financing operations, alongside the Comptoir National d Escompte de Paris and Crédit Lyonnais. The 30 million loan granted in 1918 was deferred in 1921, fixing its maturity at 1 July 1927.
In June 1918, the Commission for Relief in Belgium, whose task was to arrange for the supply of food to people in need in that country, asked the Bank to try to obtain a similar loan to be granted by the same group of Dutch banks to the same group of French banks. Existing archives do not however enable us to ascertain whether this loan was in fact granted.
Transactions with the Netherlands, the city of Amsterdam and other Dutch cities
The Amsterdam branch also took part in a number of debt paper issues by the Dutch state. In 1915, the branch participated in the issue of 6-month Treasury notes totalling 20 million guilders at a rate of 4½%, underwriting 200,000 guilders worth of the paper. In 1922, when the Dutch state issued a bond to raise 150 million guilders, the branch joined the placement syndicate, underwriting 4,500,000 guilders worth of the issue, half of which was placed in New York. The placement was a great success, being two and a half times subscribed.
The Amsterdam branch was especially involved in deals on behalf of the city of Amsterdam. The branch participated in 14 loans between 1932 and 1937, underwriting 8-10% of the amount raised in each case.
Several transactions were also carried out on behalf of the city of The Hague. The branch was invited to take part by the Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij, but its contribution was relatively low, at around 2% of the nominal amount.
In addition the branch also made cash advances to city authorities. In May 1932, it granted a 3-month loan of 2 million guilders to the city of Rotterdam, backed by a government guarantee. In April 1941, the branch made 700,000 guilders available to the city of Amsterdam, with a package of securities pledged as collateral.
In February 1938, the branch participated in a long-term loan to the province of North Holland for an amount of 34,883,000 guilders at a 16.6% rate of interest.
71. See French Diplomatic Documents, 1921, Volume 1, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, P.I.E. Peter Lang, 2004.
OBAM: how money invested in 1936 by French monasteries became an open-end investment fund called BNP Paribas OBAM NV
This investment company was started in 1936 with the capital of several French religious orders under the name of Onderlinge Beleggings- en Adminstratie Maatschappij OBAM (Mutual Investment and Administration Office).
The orders involved had chosen the Netherlands as a safe haven because they feared the expropriation of their assets by the French government of the Popular Front. The fund was managed and administered by Beels & Co, whose roots went back to the early 19th century. Initially, OBAM invested exclusively in Dutch, American and Canadian blue chip stocks but over time the fund became a worldwide investor.
In order to give the French shareholders more freedom, OBAM was listed on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange in 1954. In 1955 Beels & Co was absorbed by R. Mees & Zoonen, later Bank Mees & Hope and MeesPierson.
The large international insurance company Nationale Nederlanden, today called ING, took a major position in OBAM in 1964.
Via MeesPierson, Fortis and BNP Paribas the fund is now marketed as BNP Paribas Obam, and it is still quoted on the NYSE Euronext Amsterdam.
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