Santander boss predicts vaccine driven recovery as profit falls 35%

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·3 min read
Santander executive chairman Ana Botin. Photo: Alvaro Barrientos/AP
Santander executive chairman Ana Botin. Photo: Alvaro Barrientos/AP

The executive chairman of Santander (SAN.MC) is optimistic about a vaccine driven recovery for the global economy.

Ana Botin said in the bank’s results statement on Wednesday that she had “realistic optimism” about the outlook for the world this year.

“Vaccination is the most important economic policy for 2021,” she said. “We will not let down our guard, but I define my view as one of realistic optimism. A successful roll out of the vaccine will act as a strong catalyst for economic recovery.”

The statement reiterated a sentiment expressed by Botin at the virtual Davos Agenda conference last week, where she said vaccine rollout strategies would be more important than government or central bank interventions.

READ MORE: Santander CEO says vaccines are the most effective economic policy

Wednesday’s comments came as the Spanish banking giant reported fourth quarter and full-year results. Pre-tax profit at the bank fell 25% in the final quarter of 2020 and was down 35% to €9.6bn (£8.4bn) for the year as a whole.

Income was down 10% to €44.6bn in 2020 and provisions for future losses rose 31% to €12.1bn. Underlying pre-tax profit slumped 38% to €5bn.

Botin said the results “demonstrate the resilience and effectiveness of Santander’s business and strategy... in spite of the significant headwinds.”

Santander lent €1bn a day to businesses around the world during the crisis, Botin said, and supported 6 million customers through holidays on debt repayments.

“Although the crisis is global, our geographic and business diversification have once again served us well and underscored the strength of our team and model,” she said. “We delivered solid performance in the Americas and strong growth in our global businesses, providing balance against the more challenging environment in Europe.”

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READ MORE: Historic loss at Santander as UK arm takes £5.5bn write-down

Santander’s British business was particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Pre-tax profit fell 44% to £551m last year at Santander’s UK franchise. Revenues fell 5% but the bank was forced to set aside £448m to cover an expected spike in losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although Covid-19 materially impacted our results, the decisive actions we have taken have helped to deliver a very resilient performance despite the difficult environment,” UK boss Nathan Bostock said. “We have achieved strong lending growth, particularly in mortgages, grown customer deposits, delivered further efficiency savings and a notable improvement in income in the second half of the year."

"With vaccines being rolled out at pace and the ratification of the Brexit trade agreement, we are well positioned to support the UK's economic recovery over the coming years and deliver on our purpose to help people and businesses prosper."

Shares rose 4.5% at the open in Madrid.

Santander shares jumped in early trade. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK
Santander shares jumped in early trade. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK

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