CNBC Transcript: Jean Lemierre, Chairman, BNP Paribas

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Below is the transcript of a CNBC interview with Jean Lemierre, Chairman, BNP Paribas. The interview was first broadcast on CNBC's Street Signs Asia on 14 September 2018.

Interviewed by CNBC's Nancy Hungerford and Amanda Drury

Nancy Hungerford (Nancy): It's a pleasure to speak to you again this year. My colleague Martin was just discussing the comments coming from Mario Draghi yesterday really trying to reassure investors over the emerging market fears out there coming on the same day that the Turkish central bank did raise rates as many in the market were hoping for. Given your presence in Turkey, are you relieved by the central banks measures? Or do you still think more needs to be done in the country?

Jean Lemierre (Lemierre): So, I do not believe that we see or face an emerging market crisis, there are tensions against some countries. We know them. Turkey. We speak about it. Argentina. There are tensions in some countries but this is not an overwhelming crisis I think especially in Asia. I do not see any specific difficulties in Asian emerging market countries. Now, what about Turkey? Turkey's facing imbalances. Internal imbalances. Inflation notably. External pressures. The region is difficult. War. Terrorism. It's a difficult situation. So Turkey has to react and they have reacted and I think they have taken the right measures at the time the currency was weaker and weaker and they have taken a vote and a CIS, an extremely important decision.

Nancy: You may say though it's just one step. You laid out some of the other challenges facing the country that you could argue won't go away any time soon. When you look at your unit there TEB. Would you consider exiting the country?

Lemierre: No. Why? Turkey is a great country great economy. There are hard workers. They export. They know how to do business. So it's a great country. You should steer away from all these comments. Turkey is great. They face difficulties. I hope and I'm sure they know how to face the difficulties. Once more, their decision making shows they have the willingness to protect their currency. They have the willingness to protect their capacity to be funded by outside flow of money. So they do the job.

Amanda Drury(Mandy): The last decade has been a very interesting one for the European banking space not necessarily in a good way. There have been calamities, there have been recoveries, have been more problems, have been recoveries and yet BNP Paribas has been somewhat relatively unscathed at the end of the day. Are you're now in a position to go acquisition hunting and by that I mean are you still interested in Commerce Bank because that is the rumor.

Lemierre: You know the answer. We never comment on this type of rumors. I shall not answer your question. Not to be impolite but I shall not answer and we always have a clear view on this, which is "no".

Mandy: So you're categorically saying you're not interested in Commerce Bank anymore.

Lemierre (over Mandy): "No, no, no, and I shall not comment."

Mandy: Let me take a different tactic then. Considering you know there are some stresses in banking in the banking space in Europe; for example, you know the German banks are still reorganizing. You've got Britain. Those banks are dealing with Brexit. The Italians are just sort of climbing out from bad loans. Are you in a position to be able to acquire; for example, Italian banks? There are some investors who would like you to do more in the Italian banking space considering you've already got a division there.

Lemierre: We have a bank in Italy: BNL. The bank does well. We are very positive about this and we have no intention to acquire any bank but we grow, we develop activities, and we finance the economy so it does well.

Mandy: Is it a problem that you can't be more aggressive because some perceive you as sort of an 'arm of the state' that perhaps that might be hindering you because you've got to keep French interests at the forefront. Do you feel you can't be more aggressive with cost-cutting or you can't be more aggressive with some of your moves?

Lemierre: BNP Paribas is a fully private sector bank. Fully owned by private sector investors. We have Belgium in the capital but for a limited amount we are a private sector bank. We are not the 'arm of the state'.

Mandy: Let me rephrase, some feel that you might have to keep in French interests in mind when you when you make moves; for example, aggressive cost-cutting.

Lemierre: The interest of the shareholders, of the clients, of the teams of the bank, of the economies that I've commented on this. We grow in Europe. We grow organically - quite a lot in Germany, in Spain, everywhere. We are positive about this. We support cross-border funding across the world. We try to be a bank both of the euro and dollar. But why should we be at risk? Why should we try to buy? We have the resources, the capacity, and the willingness to grow. We do it. And hopefully we do it well for the economies. We are not the 'arm of the state'.

Mandy: Sorry that was bad phrasing but I think you get my point.

Nancy: So looking at what we've seen 10 years on from the global financial crisis do you think the European banking sector as a whole. Do you think BNP Paribas is ready to weather a future crisis?

Lemierre: Yes, a lot of work has been done over the ten last years after the Lehman crisis. It's maybe not fully over. You have varying situations which have to be dealt with but the banking sector in Europe is much stronger than a few years ago.

Nancy: Which situations concern you the most?

Lemierre: Well the process is still going on in Italy you have mentioned it. There are some situations in Germany. It's very well known. It's being processed. NPL is now being addressed. Capital is increasing in each of the banks. So the banking sector in Europe has definitely recovered.

Nancy: Have you been frustrated by the lack of progress on the European capital market.

Lemierre: Yes, you know I mean probably quite a lot. Europe has. And especially the Eurozone. We agree that when I say Europe, I have in mind more of the Eurozone than Europe itself. It's a question linked to Brexit. But yes, the Eurozone has to develop a stronger, a better capital market. The way it is in the U.S. -- you cannot have constraints on the capital of the bank without the capacity to fully use all the capacities of the market. And yes, we need to grow the capital market in Europe.

Mandy: You've vented your frustrations before haven't you? About regulators and the crypto-currency market. The question is, what do they view it as? Is it a currency? Do they regulate it like a normal currency or is it something else? Why do you think regulators have been slow to take up this in an effective manner?

Lemierre: I never speak about crypto-currencies. I speak about crypto-commodities. Currency is a very important word you know. It means a central bank. It means regulation. It means capacity to create and destroy currency. To adjust. These are not currencies, they are commodities. I hope I've been clear.

Mandy: Commodities or would you call them something else?

Lemierre: No, just simply commodities. It's fair to say this. Now, it does exist. People use it. Just some degree of speculation. I can only warn about the use of these commodities.

Mandy: Well said.

Lemierre: We do not use it

Mandy: Maybe you will one day. Maybe you'll be paying in bitcoin to come here and join us next year at the Singapore Summit.

Nancy: Next year is a quick time.

Mandy: Next year is a very quick time. You never know. Thank you so much for joining us today. Jean Lemierre the Chairman of BNP Paribas.

Squawk Box Asia


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