Santander’s £20bn London float on hold

SPANISH banking giant Santander could delay a planned £20bn flotation of its UK business on the stock market until the Spring due to uncertainty over the economy.

The bank’s six acquisitions in the last four months and new capital rules have fuelled speculation the bank will spin off its UK arm his Autumn but a fragile stock market is thought to have made the bank nervous about such a move.

The bank has been working on flotation plans with advisers from Deutsche Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse, with another three banks, including Nomura, pitching for business.

Santander has spun off businesses before, such as its Brazilian banking operation, which raised $8bn (£5.1bn) last year. It has also made several acquisitions recently, including buying 318 bank branches from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and two US car loan books from HSBC and Citigroup.

Meanwhile, last week, Santander agreed to buy a majority stake in Polish bank Zachodni for up to $4.2bn.

Santander is also understood to want to buy 96 of the 265 Halifax branches axed in the summer by Lloyds Banking Group.

City observers view the flotation as the only way Santander can fund its continuing growth plans.The perceived wisdom is the bank will float about 20 per cent of its UK business for a value of around £20bn. The bank, which bought Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley in the wake of the financial crisis in 2007, currently has 1.8m shareholders Santander was unavailable for comment.