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Banking: How much is that client in the window?

Amid all the bad news surrounding the world’s best-known banks, one institution can hold its head high after its latest results.

Santander announced last month that it made a net profit of €9.06 billion in 2007 – an amount to make its US and European rivals feel green with envy.

Last year was a spectacular one for the Spanish bank capped off with its acquisition of Brazil’s Banco Real as part of the consortium that bought ABN Amro.

The original price of the deal was €19.9 billion but that included some of ABN Amro’s Italian assets, which Santander quickly sold for €10.1 billion. So the final net cost is €9.8 billion. Except that isn’t. It’s €10.5 billion.

The reason? A little publicised additional €750 million investment to buy ABN Amro’s, now RBS’s, global clients business in Brazil. Observers might be wondering what that actually means. Certainly, there’s little to go by in the bank’s 73-page annual report except for a bullet point in a small box titled ‘Business acquisition from partners’, on one of the presentation slides.

When the consortium of RBS, Santander and Fortis carved up ABN Amro’s empire they did so along grand lines: Santander got Banco Real, and RBS bought the Dutch firm’s global wholesale banking business, including that in Brazil. But it was subsequently decided that it made better sense if Santander owned the Brazilian wholesale banking business too, comprising about 2,200 clients – hence the additional investment cost.

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