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BEST BANK: Grupo Santander – Santander & Banesto
BEST M&A HOUSE: Merrill Lynch

It is hard to argue against Grupo Santander and its two domestic banking operations, Santander and Banesto, as winner of the best bank in Spain award. Last year its net profit was not only the highest ever reported by a Spanish company, but more than that of its bank and savings bank competitors combined. Although much of the bank’s growth has come from foreign acquisitions, including Abbey in the UK, the bank has never dropped the ball in its home market, where it continues to set the pace in innovation and in exploiting its scale to offer ruthlessly competitive pricing. Last year, for example, the bank’s Banesto subsidiary introduced 0% interest credit to SMEs borrowing to improve their technology, a move that attracted 14,000 customers.

Other popular innovations include the bank’s Real Madrid-Banesto Visa card, which gives holders up to two euros for every goal scored by Real Madrid in the Spanish league and nine months’ interest-free finance for the club’s season ticket.