Santander Profit Plunges on Property Losses

Spain's biggest bank Santander on Thursday said its 2012 net profit had more than halved, hurt by write downs on soured property assets at home while profit from key growth spots such as Latin America also fell.

Net profit fell 59 percent to 2.21 billion euros ($3.0 billion), missing forecasts by analysts in a Reuters poll. Santander said its bad loan ratio for the group was 4.54 percent at the end of December, while it rose to 6.74 percent in Spain.

Santander-- the largest lender in the euro zone -- said it had set aside 18.8 billion euros in provisions against bad loans and assets in 2012.

It added it had now covered all of its government-enforced provisions against rotten real estate assets in Spain. The bank added that it had decided to return 24 billion euros in long-term loans from the European Central Bank.

It had taken about 35 billion euros in so-called longer-term refinancing operations or LTROs.

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