T H E I N T E R-WA R Y E A R S

In 1920, in association with the Hachette publishing group, one of its major clients, Paribas took control of the Oskar Saenger paper manufacturing business in Pabianice, central Poland. Founded in 1863, the company had been acquired in 1874 by the Saenger family from Warsaw. At the time the firm specialised in making packaging paper and cardboard bobbins for the textile industry in the Łódź region. Reconstituted in 1898 as a limited liability company, by 1903 it employed 360 people, producing 450 to 500 tons of paper a month. However, the plant had been dismantled by German occupying forces during the war and in 1919 the company was looking for fresh capital to help it rise again from the ashes. With Paribas backing it bought, on highly advantageous terms 5, former German-owned paper factories in Myszków and Warsaw which had been placed under sequestration.

Paribas plan was to combine its involvement in this business with its interests in the river transport company in order to embark on a venture exporting cellulose to France via the Vistula and the port of Danzig (Gdansk). Paribas management were intending to create what they called a loop , comprising cellulose production in Poland, transporta- tion of the raw material by the barges belonging to the Société Varsovienne pour les Transports et la Navigation for loading on to steamships, with everything financed by Banque Franco-Polonaise. However, the sea and river transportation businesses came to an abrupt end due to problems meeting the repayment terms of loans denominated in pounds sterling and they went into liquidation in 1927-1928.

The Paribas Group was also active in the petroleum business. Before the First World War the bank had set up, in conjunction with an Austrian partner, two oil companies, Société Franco-Galicienne de Pétrole and Société Franco-Polonaise de Pétrole, which drilled in the oilfields of Bitkow and Tustanovychi, now part of Boryslav. After the war, Paribas sought to raise its stake in the oilfields of the former Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia, in col- laboration with Clairin & Cie and Bénard Frères. The bank also acquired a majority share- holding in two Austrian oil companies working in Galicia, which had been placed under sequestration: the Carpathian Oil Company of Galicia, which produced 120,000 tonnes of crude a year, and Schnodica, which produced 80,000 tonnes. The bank was hoping to thereby assist the efforts of the French government to cover France s requirements for imported fuel. However, in actual fact Galician oil only ever accounted for a small per- centage of French imports. The extraction figures had already been in free fall before the war, having reached a peak of 2 million tonnes back in 1909. By 1914 oil production in Galicia had slipped to 1,114,000 tonnes, with a further decline to 771,000 tonnes by 1924 and stood at around just 500,000 tonnes per year during the 1930s. It therefore seemed more logical to sell the oil inside Poland or to closer neighbouring countries.

Paribas third major area of investment was the transport sector. The bank took a stake in EKD, the company set up to build the Electric Commuter Railway, the first electrified railway line in Poland, linking Warsaw to Grodzisk Mazowiecki in the suburbs of the capital.

5. Paribas Archives, memo from Commandant Galland to Horace Finaly, September 1924.

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