General view of the buildings of the financial district of La Defense near Paris. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
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"Of course, it is not a matter of returning to the banks pre-crisis race for balance sheet size ... but rather one of ensuring that there will still be some European banking institutions capable of meeting the needs of international clients operating around the world," Oudea said in an opinion piece posted on his Linkedin account.So while at the height of the 2010-12 eurozone crisis French banks had to cut their balance sheets by selling assets as investors fretted about their exposure to countries like Greece and their funding models, this cull was short-lived.The Belgian government owns 10.25 percent of BNP Paribas, while French state bank Caisse des Depots has 3 percent of voting rights in Societe Generale.Other investors are skeptical because French banks have lower capital ratios than most European peers, although they set more ambitious targets after last year's European Central Bank asset quality review and stress tests.The French banks argue that they have already done the pruning that others are only now doing, giving them a head start over rivals like Deutsche Bank or Credit Suisse which announced thousands of job cuts and plans to slim down their investment banks last year.Though French lenders have recently announced savings plans to offset regulatory and compliance costs, as well as cutting some investment banking activities, they have not made massive job cuts or sold underperforming assets such as SocGen's loss-making Russian business or BNP Paribas' Italian activities.
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