Recovery in retail arm sees Santander earnings surge

Santander CEO Ana Botin speaking at Leeds University
Santander CEO Ana Botin speaking at Leeds University
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HIGH street bank Santander’s retail division bounced back last year with a 27 per cent surge in earnings.

The Spanish-owned group, which has around 3,200 staff in Yorkshire, saw profits in the retail bank jump to £1.6bn in 2013 as Government schemes to revive the housing market and bank lending sent wholesale funding costs lower.

Costly ISA savings deals launched to lure in depositors also came to an end.

Overall underlying pre-tax profits held largely firm at £1.14bn in 2013 against £1.15bn in 2012 in a sharp reversal of the 20 per cent plunge seen at the half-year stage.

Its Spanish parent Banco Santander also revealed a marked turnaround in fortunes, with full-year profits nearly doubling to 4.37bn euros (£3.6bn) from 2.29bn euros (£1.9bn) in 2012 thanks to sharply lower bad debts, although fourth quarter figures came in below market expectations.

The group said there were “no current plans” to float its UK business, but added the long-awaited listing remained a “medium-term objective”.

Javier Marin, chief executive of Banco Santander, said last autumn that a flotation would not happen in 2014, but planned to revisit the situation later this year, signalling a potential spin-off in 2015.

Its UK arm delivered a vastly improved performance in the final six months of 2013, with underlying profits in the final quarter more than doubling year-on-year to £248m.

The housing market revival boosted gross mortgage lending by 28 per cent to £18.4bn. Net lending – new loans less repayments – continued to fall, down five per cent to £148.1m as part of its drive to pull out of higher risk areas and interest only lending.

It has been reducing its mortgage book in recent years as it focuses on other areas, such as current accounts and small business banking.

But UK chief executive Ana Botin said it planned to grow both business and retail lending in 2014, with the group expecting a rise in net mortgage lending for the first time in two years as it looks to maintain its share of the market at around 12.4 per cent.

She said: “The UK economic recovery is strengthening, although uncertainties remain in the banking environment for the year ahead.”

“We will continue to support our customers and the broader economy: our intention is to grow both our commercial and retail lending in 2014,” she added.

Net lending to small businesses leapt 10 per cent higher to £11.7bn last year, while it saw a 75 per cent surge in current account balances to £27.9bn thanks to ongoing take-up of its 123 account.

The focus on current accounts and business lending came at the expense of its savings business, with customer deposits down three per cent.

It has shifted away from attracting depositors after suffering a hit from expensive savings deals, which have recently end- ed.

The bank also revealed that no further cash has been set aside for payment protection insurance (PPI) compensation, which it confirmed had continued to slow in 2013, down to an average of £11m a month in the fourth quarter from £26m a month in 2012.

Santander said there was also no further provisions on top of the £232m put by in 2012 to cover claims including interest rate swap compensation.

Santander UK was formed from the takeover of Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and part of Bradford & Bingley.

Santander took over Bradford & Bingley’s savings accounts and branches, and the Government took control of its mortgages and loans, following the bank’s collapse in 2008 due to massive bad debts.

Bradford & Bingley, which listed on the London Stock Exchange in December 2000, had been one of Britain’s biggest building societies.