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Santander profits surge 40%, driven by Britain, Brazil

[MADRID] The eurozone's biggest bank, Santander of Spain, said Tuesday its profits surged by nearly 40 per cent in 2014, led by its activity in Britain and Brazil.

Despite economic uncertainty in key regions and the sudden death of its longtime chairman Emilio Botin in September, Santander said its profits rose to 5.8 billion euros (US$6.6 billion).

"For the first time since the start of the global economic crisis, gross profit increased in the 10 main markets where the group operates," it said in a statement.

In Britain, where Santander UK is one of the leading finance groups, profit surged 30 per cent over the year to 1.58 billion euros, it said.

In key emerging market Brazil, profits rose by eight per cent to 1.56 billion euros.

"The 2014 results are set against a context of uneven slowdowns in Latin American economies, doubts about the eurozone's recovery... and favourable growth expectations in the UK and the US," it said.

In the United States, profits were stable at 800 million euros.

But in Spain, where the economy is growing again after several years of recession, profits surged by 141 per cent to 1.2 billion euros.

The bank said its had also boosted its results by cutting costs and having to make fewer provisions against the bad loans that ravaged the Spanish banking sector during the crisis.

Santander's shares rose by 3.25 per cent during morning trading on the Madrid stock exchange after the announcement. The market was up by 1.86 per cent overall.

Emilio Botin's daughter Ana took over as chairman after his death at age 79 and launched a new growth strategy.

One of her first moves was to issue 7.5 billion euros in new shares to bolster the bank's capital base.

Emilio Botin was one of the most powerful men in Spain, where critics branded him a symbol of the excesses in the banking system that sparked a ruinous property crash.

Unlike several of his Spanish competitors, his own bank survived the crash thanks to its global reach.