Santander reports 18% rise in annual profit as Brazil unit sees strong performance

Key Points
  • Speaking to CNBC, Ana Botin, executive chairman of the bank, said she is "extremely proud" of the last three years.
  • Botin told CNBC that lower global growth could be a positive for banks. 
US is our best performing country this year, Santander's chairman says

Banco Santander reported an 18 percent increase in net income for 2018 on the back of strong growth in the United States, Brazil and Spain.

Looking at the bank's annual performance, net income reached 7.81 billion euros ($8.93 billion) last year, compared to 6.62 billion euros in 2017.

The Spanish bank also reported Wednesday an increase of nearly 4 percent in net income in the last quarter of 2018 from the previous three-month period — reaching 2.07 billion euros. Shares were marginally higher in morning trade on Wednesday.

Speaking to CNBC, Ana Botin, the executive chairman at the bank, said she is "extremely proud" of the last three years.

"We are extremely proud of what we have achieved these three years, because we have … delivered growth, very few European banks delivered growth. We have delivered more than 20 percent of growth in the top line with profitability and strengthening the balance sheet," she told CNBC's Geoff Cutmore in Madrid.

Botin also said that the bank will keep the current strategy, which is "based on customer loyalty and digital excellence."

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Looking at the different regions where the bank operates, the United States saw underlying attributable profit up by 42 percent year-on-year; Brazil rose 22 percent and Spain 21 percent. Argentina and the U.K. didn't register positive growth.

"We have a lot of faith in Brazil," Botin said. "Brazil suffered one of the most deep recessions in history, there was a 9 percent decrease in GDP and our bank performed very well through that period."

She also commented on the appointment of new leader Jair Bolsonaro and his plans for the country.

"The plan that they (the government) have to get the pension reform approved is the single most important thing," she said. "There are other things they need to do but I believe you could see 10 years of growth in Brazil at 3, 4 percent."

Global growth slowdown could be 'good' for banks

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered its forecasts for global growth last week, citing issues in China, Germany and the U.K.

However, Botin told CNBC that lower global growth could be a positive for banks.

"There is no doubt there will some slowdown in global growth, but I think that's not bad because it could be a more sustainable growth and that's actually relatively good for banks," she said.

"If we have a more sustainable growth, we are going to have margins maybe widening a little bit, with a bit higher rates but not too much — that's good for our non-performing loans and that's also good for demand for credit."