Emilio Botin on bank lending during the crisis

Botín claims it would be irresponsible to increase lending during crisis

At yesterday’s presentation of end of year results for Santander bank, the largest in Spain and fourth biggest in the world in terms of its profits, Emilio Botín, the President of the bank, assumed the leadership of the Spanish banking sector in order to clarify the position on lending. (At the beginning of this week Spain’s leading bankers were called to a meeting in the Moncloa during which Zapatero asked them to concede more loans to private and corporate clients). However yesterday Botín said that banks had not simply turned off the ‘credit tap’. He said that the moderation of lending on the part of the banks was inevitable due to the deteriorating economy.

Botin said that the banks would not be doing the Spanish economy any favours if they increased their lending in an irresponsible manner thus placing the solvency of the system in danger as had occurred in other countries. He said the real problem would be if the banks could not give loans to solvent clients due to lack of capital.

Botin refused to comment on recent declarations made by Miguel Martín, the president of AEB, in which Matín placed the blame for the current crisis on the economy rather than on the banks.

Botin pointed out that the Santander bank continues to approve around 75% of loan applications compared to 80% before the crisis. He also said there had been a significant drop in the demand for credit. According to Botín during 2008 the application for private loans fell by 21% and applications for mortgages fell by 27%. It has been forecast for this year that the volume of credit in Spain will not grow in line with GDP.

With respect to the bank’s results for 2008 Botín said that the bank had made profits of 8,876 million euros which was 2% less than 2007.

He said that defaulting on loan repayments had reached 2.04% but that he feared that this year this figure could rise to 4.5%.

With regards to whether the government should help the banks Botín was emphatic in saying that the government had not given the banks anything. He also said he did not expect the economy to recover before the end of this year.

Botín informed that Santander board members would earn 15% less this year and executive board members 10% less. He also said that dividends would drop by 9% in 2009.

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