Santander UK float on hold until banking sector issues resolved

SANTANDER UK chief executive Ana Botín says she cannot make progress on the bank’s planned flotation until uncertainty over the new structure of the sector is lifted.

She insisted the £3 billion flotation of Santander UK on the London Stock Exchange is still her ambition. “It will happen. The question is when. Our thinking is not before the end of 2013,” she said, during a visit to Edinburgh.

But a decision could not be taken until the UK government determines how the banks should comply with the demands of the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB) to ring-fence certain functions.

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“There is still a lot of uncertainty about how the ICB affects us. We cannot go ahead [with the float] until these issues are resolved,” she said.

She believes that absorbing the 312 Royal Bank of Scotland branches it acquired last year will give it the strength to compete effectively against the indigenous banks.

She expects the integration to begin at the end of this year, starting with the retail network, though she is pressing ahead with the roll-out of business centres in Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth to add to those in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The bank will have a dozen more branches in Scotland to add to the stock of 113.

“Once we integrate the RBS business we will have critical mass to compete against the big banks,” she said.

Her mission is to build Santander UK as an independent business from its Spanish parent, and has instigated initiatives to grow market share in retail and business banking, the latter standing at between 3 per cent and 4 per cent.

She is keen to encourage firms to develop trade links beyond their main European market and is offering Santander’s substantial presence in Latin America and the US to extend into other territories.