Santander could pull out of Project Merlin, new UK head says

19 January 2011

Spanish bank Santander has suggested that it could withdraw from a British financial industry initiative to agree collective targets for business lending and may discuss the issue alone with the Treasury.

Speaking to a parliamentary committee yesterday, the firm's newly-appointed UK boss Ana Patricia Botin explained that while Santander is keen to reach an agreement with the government, it could choose to separate from Project Merlin.

"We support the overall objectives of Merlin. Our intention is to participate specifically in the lending commitments ... in our own way," she told MPs yesterday (January 18th 2010).

According to the Guardian, Santander could be prepared to provide up to £7 billion ($11.2 billion) in credit to businesses this year, while RBS, Lloyds, Barclays and HSBC are expected to lend a combined total of around £180 billion.

Ms Botin's comments came after it a report in Spanish newspaper El Mundo claimed Santander chief executive Alfredo Saenz could be barred from banking in a case over false allegations against debtors.

By Claire Archer

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