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

being Jewish. Quite a lot of staff were required to deal with this plethora of smaller loans. However, the Drohobycz branch specialised in financing oil drilling. In October 1924, while recognising that the industrial and financial situation in Poland was extremely delicate, WBV management asked BBE for new large dollar loans. They were counting on the prudent attitude of the SGBP Managing Director, explaining: Doctor Fajans intends only in highly exceptional cases to grant long-term loans, i.e. of three to six months, to Polish industry, but such loans can only be provided if backed by refinancing from the parent banks , i.e. WBV and BBE12. However, BBE was not in favour of increasing the dollar credit line, in spite of WBV s reassurances: The internal political situation in Poland is stabilising day by day [and] for the moment we do not see any external threats, given Germany s current weakness and Russia s impotence. In addition, the economic situation seems to be improving 13.

In the spring of 1924, SGBP s first year results enabled the bank to pay out a dividend of 5%, in addition to the fact that BBE and WBV both made substantial profits from the foreign currency loans they had made to their Polish subsidiary.

In 1925, the Polish banking sector was shaken by a serious crisis. With the exception of the Warschauer Diskonto-Bank, Westbank and the small Allgemeine Kreditbank, the Polish banks were all under-capitalised in relation to their commitments and so had to beg for help from the government or abroad. Kommerzbank in Warsaw, for example, which needed 4 to 6 million dollars to get back on its feet, obtained loans from Banca Commerciale Italiana. Meanwhile, according to an internal memo of Société Générale de Belgique that year, SGBP s foreign business has made considerable progress, and everyone assures me that it is rated the top bank in the country, both as regards its man- agement and its lending operations. Domestic business is however fairly low in terms of lending; this is due firstly to its continued policy of reducing its overall commitments and broadening the spread, and secondly because the bank has realised that in the current situation it needs to look very carefully at whom it grants loans to.

Accordingly the bank increased its capital from 1.5 million zlotys to 2 million in 1926 and then to 8 million zlotys in 1928. In August 1929, Böhmische Union-Bank (Bohemian Bank Corporation), a BBE-WBV joint venture, acquired a 10% stake in SGBP. In 1930, SGBP s cap- ital was split between WBV (39.6%), BBE (26.7%), Baseler Handelsbank (11%), Böhmische Union-Bank (10%) and Polish shareholders (12.7%).

In April 1927, SGBP and Banque Franco-Polonaise helped to stabilise the Polish currency at a rate of 9 zlotys to the dollar by subscribing to a $70 million dollar bond issued by the government.

12. State Archives of the Kingdom of Belgium Vol II, BBE, n° 81-82, Oskar Pollak to Chevalier de Wouters d Oplinter, 11 October 1924.

13. State Archives of the Kingdom of Belgium Vol II, BBE, n° 81-82, Richard Fanta to Chevalier de Wouters d Oplinter, 25 October 1924.

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