BNP Paribas will enter exclusive talks to help Orange exit retail banking in France and Spain, the telecom company said Wednesday.
BNP Paribas stands to inherit roughly 2 million clients from Orange — although the French retail-banking portion of that figure is relatively small, at 500,000, according to Reuters. Nearly 1 million are customers who have signed insurance contracts managed by Cardif, a BNP Paribas subsidiary, the wire service reported.
Under Wednesday’s deal, Orange and BNP Paribas would hatch a strategy to refer Orange Bank’s clients to Hello Bank!, BNP’s digital-only platform, sources told Reuters.
The agreement effectively ends Orange’s effort to become a challenger bank and cedes more ground in a French digital-banking market increasingly dominated by units of the country’s traditional banks.
BNP Paribas' online bank counts 3.3 million customers in Europe, including 800,000 in France, according to Reuters. Societe Generale, meanwhile, counts a customer base of roughly 5 million in France, courtesy of its digital presence, Boursorama. That platform saw a boost last year, when SocGen agreed to onboard clients from Dutch lender ING, which — like Orange — had sought to exit retail banking in France.
Orange’s banking business, for its part, has assumed more than €800 million ($873 million) in losses since 2017, Bloomberg reported.
Orange had initially aimed to break even in banking by the start of 2026. But CEO Christel Heydemann floated a new strategy in February that saw Orange focus greater investment on growing its telecom business — especially in Africa — while prodding its enterprise unit to concentrate on cybersecurity.
“The evolution of the banking market now leads us to guide the bank into a new phase,” Heydemann said in a statement Wednesday. “Our priority will be to provide exemplary support for all our employees and customers.”
Orange aims to redeploy its banking unit’s 700 employees within the company, sources told Reuters.
Orange expects “no change in services, in existing loans or day-to-day operations for customers, including the taking of deposits and the granting of loans” during the transition, and it will “continue to meet all its regulatory obligations until its future withdrawal from the market,” the company said Wednesday.
“We are naturally delighted to be able to provide a complete continuity solution to Orange Bank customers following Orange Group’s strategic choice to withdraw from retail banking,” Thierry Laborde, BNP Paribas’ chief operating officer, said Wednesday. “We will support customers with a solid banking package and high-performance services.”
Orange had initially sought a financial partner for its banking unit, rather than an offload, according to Bloomberg. Cerberus Capital Management and Ripplewood Advisors had each considered offers for the business, sources told the wire service.
It wouldn’t have been Cerberus’ first foray into French retail banking. The U.S. private-equity firm agreed to buy HSBC’s French retail-banking operations in 2021 and renegotiated that deal this month.
The transfer of Orange’s French and Spanish banking business should have no impact on the company’s financial trajectory though 2025, it said.
Orange muscled into banking in 2016, when it acquired a majority stake in Groupama Banque under its previous CEO, Stephane Richard.