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Abigail with attitude: Storm clouds on Santander’s horizon

Ever since Banco Santander was named Euromoney’s bank of the year for 2012, I have been keeping a wary eye on the Spanish lender, which is also Europe’s largest bank. The share price bottomed at approximately €4 around the time of the award. This was the same level reached in March 2009. Since last July, Santander shares rose, phoenix-like, to nearly €6.50 in late January 2013, before falling back a bit. Interestingly, the chart of Santander’s stock price is similar to that of the overall Spanish market (the IBEX 35) which is probably not surprising.

In late January, the Financial Times published an article entitled "Emilio’s perfect storm". Emilio Botín, the chairman of Santander, is a wily septuagenarian and the longest-serving head of any big global bank. The article pointed out that by a variety of measures – operating profits, dividend yield, market value, balance-sheet size – Santander is one of the top 10 banks in the world.

However, there are clouds on the horizon, starting with the fact that at 78 years of age Botín needs to implement a clear succession plan. Also the bank’s main markets – Spain, Brazil and the UK – are struggling to deal with weak or weakening growth.

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