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Concerns about Spain’s sovereign solvency overshadowed a strong set of fourth-quarter earnings from Santander. The resilience of the country’s largest bank in the face of major headwinds is generating praise, but also scepticism.

The sceptics have latched on to rumours about the potential listing of minority stakes in Santander’s US and UK arms. After all, in 2009 the bank was able to offset a spike in loan-loss provisions with capital raised from the listing of its Brazilian unit and sundry other one-off transactions. With worries about Spain’s moribund economy at “fever pitch,” according to a Moody’s report, the listing rumours persist despite denials from Santander’s management.

Even if Spain’s largest bank recorded a 13% rise in net income for the fourth quarter, easily outpacing its nearest rival, BBVA, it seems that opinions about Santander’s prospects are being driven as much by sovereign fiscal concerns as the bank’s own balance sheet.

Read more at Financial Services Briefing: “Santander under scrutiny” (February 11th)

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