News Column

Santander delays floating of UK business

January 31, 2014

Jill Treanor

Santander will await clarification on new rules relating to capital levels and the "ringfencing" of banking business before it goes ahead with a flotation of its UK arm. The long-awaited listing of the UK business - first mooted in 2010 - has been deemed a medium-term prospect by the Spanish-based bank and is not expected to take place this year. "We will not do it in 2014. It is an operation for the medium term - we will do it when the business has the appropriate value," chief executive Javier Marin was quoted as saying as the bank reported a near-doubling in profits to euros 4.3bn (pounds 3.5bn), helped by a reduction in its bad debt provisions. The UK arm, which was built through the acquisition of Abbey National and Alliance & Leicester , and the taking-on of Bradford & Bingley's mortgage book in the banking crisis, is in the process of appointing Nathan Bostock , finance director of Royal Bank of Scotland , to a senior role. But, after pressure from the Prudential Regulation Authority , Bostock will now be only deputy chief executive and not take the additional chief risk officer title that he was initially offered to lure him from RBS. It is not clear when Bostock will take up the role: this week he had to explain to the City why RBS was taking a pounds 3bn charge for legal and conduct issues, which is pushing RBS to an pounds 8bn 2013 loss. The UK arm of Santander, run by Ana Botin , showed the benefits of a high-profile advertising campaign led by Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill, racing driver Jenson Button , and golfer Rory McIlroy which brought an additional 1 million customers for its current account. The bank said it was the main beneficiary of current-account switching in 2013, taking an 11% share of accounts moved. Despite the positive results, however, the bank said: "We await further clarity in respect of capital levels, leverage and the detailed rules necessary to implement ringfencing." The ringfence between high street operations and investment banking businesses was recommended by the independent commission on banking and its precise details are expected to be ironed out during the course of this year, with a view to implementation by 2019. Botin told the Guardian that Santander was a challenger bank to the big four - Lloyds Banking Group , RBS, HSBC and Barclays - with a 5% share of current accounts and a 6% share of small business banking, where the bank is aiming to increase its presence after bolstering lending by 13% in 2013. Profits in the UK arm were flat at pounds 1.1bn.

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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