Winner of the Day: Santander

The RBS-led consortium has now officially won ABN Amro, and the WSJ has an

excellent play-by-play

of how the deal went down, including a graph of how the consortium members’

stocks have been doing this year. While RBS is down 15% and Fortis is down 18%,

Santander has been holding reasonably steady, down just 2.3% year-to-date.

There’s good reason for this: the winner’s curse falls mainly on RBS, with

most of the rest of the brunt being borne by Fortis. Lina Saigol pointed out

on Monday that the consortium is paying

a premium of roughly 70% to where ABN shares would be trading had the takeover

battle not happened. But why would the ABN shares be so low? Mainly because

of credit-market woes – and it’s RBS which is going to end up with ABN’s

credit-market operations.

Fortis is the other big potential loser in this deal, since ABN is based in

Holland, and extracting ABN’s capital-markets and headquarters operations from

its Dutch retail operations is going to require some tricky surgery indeed.

Santander, on the other hand, is sitting pretty. It’s getting the Italian operations

– which have only recently been bought by ABN, and therefore should be

quite easy to unbuy – as well as Banco Real in Brazil, which has always

been run very much at arm’s length. (When I reported a story

for Euromoney about ABN’s strategic interest in Brazil, it took me well over

a year to find anybody associated with the Brazilian operations who wasn’t based

in Brazil and who could speak to the Dutch bank’s global vision.)

Meanwhile, the economic outlook for Brazil is looking as positive as ever,

even as recession fears continue to stalk the US.

RBS’s Fred Goodwin, then, faces a long and arduous process of breaking up a

$100 billion bank, and won’t even get his coveted LaSalle at the end of it.

Santander’s Emilio Botín, on the other hand, should be able to start

integrating Banco Real with his existing Brazilian operations much more quickly.

And he has now truly consolidated, once and for all, Santander’s position as

the biggest and best bank in Latin America: Citigroup, his only real competitor

in the region, has almost no presence in Brazil, which is by far Latin America’s

most important country.

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