Abbey takes Spanish brand

SPANISH banking giant Santander yesterday signalled that it would join the growing ranks of buyers circling the branches being sold off by Northern Rock, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland.

Chairman Emilio Botín yesterday said that the bank would “take advantage of opportunities” in the UK. Branches up for sale include more than 300 from RBS, 90 from Northern Rock and hundreds more from the Lloyds group. Botín was speaking in London at the official start to the rebranding of Abbey, Bradford & Bingley and Alliance & Leicester.

The change will make the Santander brand one of the biggest on the UK high street, with about 11 per cent of the mortgage, current account and savings market through 1,300 branches. By the end of the month, Abbey and B&B will have disappeared from the high street. Santander bought Abbey in 2004 and then bought both the Bradford & Bingley and the Alliance & Leicester in 2008.

Santander joins a number of parties interested in snapping up banking assets currently up for sale. National Australia Bank’s Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks are potential bidders, along with Tesco and Virgin Money.

Exane BNP Paribas banking analyst Ian Gordon said: “In the shortlist of potential buyers for these assets, Santander is an obvious candidate along with a number of others. Some RBS and Lloyds assets would build up Santander’s high street presence and its credentials in the small business sector. But I remain unconvinced that there is going to be a large number of transactions. I don’t believe that competition in financial services will return to pre-2007 levels any time soon.”