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Banque de l'Indochine

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Founded  1875
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The Banque de l'Indochine ([bɑ̃k də lɛ̃dɔʃin]) was a bank established in Paris on 21 January 1875 to operate in French Indochina, the rest of Asia, and the Pacific. It issued banknotes, not only in French territories, but also in China and elsewhere. Up to World War II, the bank experienced three phases of development. From 1875 to 1888, it functioned as a colonial bank to help the French government manage its colonial properties in South-east Asia. Then from 1889 to 1900, the bank shifted its operations from French Indochina to China. Thereafter, from 1900 to 1941, the bank represented the interests of the French government in handling the Boxer indemnity and transacted international trade between France and China. It merged with Banque de Suez in 1974 to form Banque Indosuez, which was then purchased by the Crédit Agricole group, which operated it as Crédit Agricole Indosuez (CAI), until a 2004 merger with Crédit Lyonnais, which created Calyon.


Branches in Asia-Pacific

2 Merged with Banque de Suez.


In 1908, Banque de l'Indochine established a branch in Djibouti. This was the first bank in Djibouti. It financed a railway and issued the colony's currency. Today, this is Banque Indosuez Mer Rouge, which is the second largest bank in Djibouti and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the French bank Crédit Agricole Indosuez.

Banque Française pour le Commerce

In 1925, Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas, Banque de l'Indochine, Banque Lazard and the Chinese government established the Banque Franco-Chinoise pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BFCCI) to take over the assets of the Banque Industrielle de Chine (est. 1913). The Bank established offices in Peking, Shanghai and Tientsin. It also established offices in northern Vietnam (Hanoi and Haiphong), central Vietnam (Vinh, Hué, Tourane and Qui Nhơn), southern Vietnam (Saigon) and Cambodia (Phnom Penh). By 1939, only the Hanoi, Saigon and Phnom Penh branches remained in French Indochina. At the same time, the bank had three offices in France (Paris, Lyon and Marseille).

In 1951, concerned about its geographical concentration in the high-risk region of Indochina, BFCCI sought to diversify by establishing branches in Madagascar. After the French defeat in 1954 at Diên Biên Phu, BFCCI closed its offices in North Vietnam. However, the bank started to expand in South Vietnam and Cambodia. The next year, BFCCI finally left China, its branches having been inoperative for some time.

In 1960, the Banque de l'Indochine purchased the shares in BFCCI that Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas and Banque Lazard had held. Three years later, Prince Sihanouk nationalized the banking sector in Cambodia, though BFCCI was allowed to retain a representative office. (In 1975, during the terror launched by the Khmer Rouge, the representative — an ethnic Chinese — and his family all disappeared.) In 1964, BFCCI changed its name to Banque Française pour le Commerce. The next year, the government of South Vietnam wished to create a domestic bank sector. BFC participated in the creation of Banque pour le Commerce, l'Industrie et l'Agriculture (BCIA) — Nong Cong Thuong Ngan Hang in Vietnamese — under the control of a young South Vietnamese seconded from BFC.

A change in French law in 1967 liberalized branching, enabling BFC to increase the number of its branches in France. The next year, BFC changed its name to Banque Française Commerciale.

Political turmoil cost BFC several operations in 1975. The operations in Madagascar had been satisfactory until political turmoil commenced in 1972. Then in 1975, the Malagasy Republic nationalized its branches there and transferred them to the Banque Financière et Commerciale Malagache. Also, the fall of Saigon reduced the BFC Group in Vietnam to inactivity. The authorities liquidated the bank and seized its assets; the expatriate staff returned to France.

BFC decided to transfer its operations in the Indian Ocean and in 1976, established a branch in Réunion. BFC also established operations in Mayotte at the request of the French Government after the island lost all banking services when it split from the Comoros and voted to stay linked to France. BFC also acquired Banque Antillaise and opened a branch in French Guyana. Two years later, BFCOI opened a branch in the Seychelles. The next year, BFC absorbed Banque Antillaise, together with its branches in French Guyana (2), Guadeloupe (7), and Martinique (3), and established a branch in Dominica.

In 1984, BFC restructured itself as a holding company. It established three legally and operationally distinct companies: Banque Française Commerciale en France Métropolitaine (BFC) to hold the branches in France, Banque Française Commerciale Océan Indien (BFCOI) to hold the branches in Reunion, Mayotte and the Seychelles, and Banque Française Commerciale Antilles-Guyane (BFCAG) to take over the branches in French Guyana and the Antilles. Banque Indosuez owned the entire share capital of all three entities. The next year, Compagnie Lyonnaise de Financement Immobilière acquired BFC's branches in France.

Banque Indosuez sold a majority position (66.66%) in BFCOI to Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) in 1996; Banque Indosuez retained 22.22%. The next year, BFCOI opened a branch in Paris. In 1997, BFCOI opened a representative office in Mozambique.

In 2000, MCB acquired the minority stake Crédit Agricole Indosuez held in BFCOI, increasing its stake to 88.88%. This followed the takeover of Banque Indosuez by the Crédit Agricole Group, which itself had operations in both Réunion and Mayotte in direct competition with BFCOI.


Between 1946 and 1963 Banque de l'Indochine had a branch in Ethiopia.

Papua New Guinea

In 1983 the government of Papua New Guinea invited foreign banks to open affiliates on condition that the foreign parent could only own 49 percent. However, it agreed that Bank of Papua New Guinea (BPNG; the central bank) would buy that portion of the remaining shares that local investors did not take up. Banque Indosuez established Banque Indosuez Niugini—49 percent Indosuez, 41.5 percent BPNG, and the remainder public. In 1997, Bank of Hawaii purchased Banque Indosuez Nuigini Ltd in Papua New Guinea from Banque Indosuez and renamed it Bank of Hawaii (PNG) Ltd.

Pacific Ocean

In 1989, Banque Indosuez closed its branch at Mata-Utu in Wallis and Futuna.

Banque de l’Indochine, opened a branch in Papeete, Tahiti in 1905. It then functioned as the bank of issue until the mid-1960s. Indochine converted its branches into Banque de Polynésie in 1973. Westpac acquired the bank in 1990, when Indosuez was divesting itself of almost all of its overseas retail banking operations.

Banque de l’Indochine established itself in New Caledonia in 1888. It became the bank of note issue, a role it retained until 1966. Westpac acquired the operations of Banque Indosuez in 1990, but sold them in 1998 to Société Générale Calédonienne de Banque, a subsidiary of Société Générale.

Banque de l’Indochine established a branch in Port Vila in 1948. Indosuez incorporated its branches in 1978 to form Banque Indosuez Vanuatu (BIV). The government of Vanuatu took a 20% stake in BIV in 1983 as BIV was performing a number of central banking functions, though it was not the monetary authority. In 1993, Bank of Hawaii acquired Banque Indosuez's operations in Vanuatu to form Banque d’Hawaii (Vanuatu). Bank of Hawaii sold these operations to Australia and New Zealand Banking Group in 2001.


Banque de l'Indochine Wikipedia