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Santander: Back to the front of the class

Ana Botín and her team are taking advantage of Europe's restructuring of its banking sector

Was 2017 the year Santander returned to form? 

Three years after Ana Botín’s succession, Santander struck a bargain of which her predecessor and late father, Emilio, would have been proud. In a lightning deal with the ECB’s Single Resolution Board in June, the bank paid just €1 for Banco Popular, after equity and subordinated debt holders were wiped out. 

It took less than a day – showing resolve and an appetite for acquisitions, despite Santander’s repeated recoiling from a purchase of Williams & Glynn in the UK.

The deal puts it ahead of CaixaBank as the biggest domestic bank in Spain, where organic growth in lending is hard as households continue to cut debt. Crucially, it more than doubles Santander’s market share in Spanish small and medium-sized enterprises, the country’s most sought-after banking segment. 

Santander is pursuing SMEs globally. Popular has a market-beating domestic SME share of 14%. 

In other respects, too, Santander and its chair are having a promising run.

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