Trump's actions so far have been 'good' for the US economy, Santander chair says

Key Points
  • Santander, the euro zone's biggest bank in terms of market value, reported net profit of 1.54 billion euros ($1.92 billion) in the period October to December.
  • Analysts had expected net profit to come in at 1.46 billion euros in the quarter.
Santander chair: Reconfirming all targets for 2018

The actions taken by President Donald Trump have been "good" for the economy so far, the chairman of Banco Santander told CNBC on Wednesday, downplaying the president's comments on trade.

"I look to actions not words and the actions so far are actually good for the economy," Ana Botin, chairman of Banco Santander, told CNBC Wednesday when asked about Trump's comments on NAFTA — a trade agreement between Mexico, Canada and the U.S.

"We are very encouraged for example with the new administration's appointments on the financial side. They are absolutely keen that we keep a very strong financial sector but they also want banks to support growth," Botin said, adding "we can reinvest the tax savings in higher wages, more lending and this is very good news."

Banco Santander posted on Wednesday a 4 percent fall in fourth-quarter net profit from a year earlier, hurt by extraordinary impairments in its U.S. unit that offset solid underlying results from Spain's biggest lender.

Santander, the euro zone's biggest bank in terms of market value, reported a net profit of 1.54 billion euros ($1.92 billion) for the October-December period. Analysts had expected net profit to come in at 1.46 billion euros in the quarter.

Santander: Remain confident to achieve all 2018 targets

Its bottom line was hit by impairments of 752 million euros, mainly on its U.S. consumer finance group, that were not entirely offset by a capital gain of 297 million euros on the sale of its platform Allfunds.

Excluding the extraordinary charges, underlying net profit in the quarter rose 9 percent, boosted by a strong performance in its largest market, Brazil.

Botin told CNBC that she was "very pleased" with the year as a whole, noting that Brazil and Mexico did well, but also the U.S. and Spain.

"2017 was a very important year for the U.S. and I really think we have turned the corner so if you look at the underlying growth in the U.S. for 2017 is up 5 percent — that's the first time this happens, we paid the first dividend since 2011, which means we are on the right track with the regulators," Botin said.

"So I'm quite excited with what we can do in the U.S. and the U.S. economy is doing very well," she added.

A Banco Santander office in Madrid, Spain.
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Like European rivals, Santander is struggling to lift earnings from loans in Spain as interest rates hover at historic lows and rising competition erodes margins.

Santander's net interest income (NII) - a measure of earnings on loans minus deposit costs - was 8.6 billion euros in the quarter, up 6.3 percent from last year but down 0.9 percent against the previous quarter. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected NII to come in at 8.52 billion euros.

Santander ended December with a core tier-1 fully loaded ratio of 10.84 percent, compared with 10.80 percent in September.

The lender also said it had delivered on all strategic targets for 2017 and it remained confident it would achieve all targets for 2018.

— Reuters contributed to this report.