Sprawling empire that stretches from Latin America to Germany

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The Independent Online

Unlike most of its Continental banking rivals, Santander Central Hispano attracted attention among the City investment community for its rapid growth in recent years and its apparent ability to manage the difficult task of holding together a wide empire of businesses that reach from Brazil to Germany.

Unlike most of its Continental banking rivals, Santander Central Hispano attracted attention among the City investment community for its rapid growth in recent years and its apparent ability to manage the difficult task of holding together a wide empire of businesses that reach from Brazil to Germany.

Founded in 1857, Santander has acquired a string of rivals to become Spain's largest bank, as well as the number one player in Latin America.

It also has a 14-year-old relationship with Royal Bank of Scotland, in which it holds a 5 per cent stake, while the Scottish bank controls about 2.8 per cent of Santander's shares.

The bank's professional reputation took a hit earlier this year when a Spanish judge ordered that its chairman, Emilio Botin, who is head of one of the country's most powerful families, be tried for handing out severance packages worth €164m to two former senior colleagues.

The pay-offs followed one of Santander's less happy mergers - with Banco Central Hispano Americano - in 1997, which led to infighting among executives.

In general, Santander is respected among investors for its ability to buy local banks and then allow them considerable freedom to manage themselves. But staying on to run a subsidiary of a foreign bank is probably not in the gameplan of Luqman Arnold, an investment banker by profession who joined from UBS to turn around Abbey. He will now probably be looking for his next challenge.

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