Grupo Santander (, ; ; ) is a banking group centered on Banco Santander, the largest bank in Spain, which originated in Santander, Cantabria, Spain. As of June 2008, it is the second largest bank in Europe in terms of market capitalization (behind HSBC), and also has numerous operations in Latin America. It has rebranded most of the subsidiaries it has acquired to Santander.
Grupo Santander consists of 131,819 employees, 65.1 million customers, 11,178 branches and 2.27 million shareholders. Retail banking - the main aspect of Santander's operations - generates 82% of the group's profit. The group is amongst the top ten banking organisations in the world and is the biggest bank in the Eurozone by market cap. Currently, they are a corporate sponsor of the McLaren-Mercedes Formula 1 team and the Copa Libertadores de America.
On 26 July 2004 Abbey National plc (in the United Kingdom) and Banco Santander Central Hispano announced that they had reached agreement on the terms of a recommended acquisition by Banco Santander of Abbey. Following shareholders' approval at the EGMs of Abbey (95 per cent voted in favour, despite vocal opposition from most of those present) and Santander, the acquisition was formally approved by the courts and Abbey became part of Grupo Santander on 12 November 2004.
In June 2006, Banco Santander Central Hispano purchased almost 20% of Sovereign Bank (in the United States) for $2.4 billion. As Banco Santander owns 25% of Sovereign, it has the right to buy the bank for $40 per share for one year beginning in the middle of 2008.
In May 2007 Banco Santander Central Hispano announced that in conjunction with Royal Bank of Scotland and Fortis it would make an offer for ABN AMRO. BSCH's share of the offer added up to 28% and the offer would have to be made up of a capital increase through a new share issue. Then in October 2007 the consortium outbid Barclays and acquired ABN AMRO. As part of the deal, Grupo Santander acquired ABN AMRO's subsidiary in Brazil, Banco Real, and its subsidiary in Italy, Banca Antonveneta. In November 2007, it sold Banca Antonveneta to Monte dei Paschi di Siena. In March 2008, Banco Santander sold Interbanca, a subsidiary of Banca Antonveneta, to GE Commercial Finance, receiving in return GE Money businesses in Germany, Finland and Austria, and GE's Card and Auto Financing Businesses in the UK, which it will integrate into Santander Consumer Finance. In July 2008, Grupo Santander announced its intended takeover of the UK's Alliance & Leicester bank, with £24bn in deposits and 254 branches. In September 2008, Grupo Santander announced that it will acquire the savings business of UK bank Bradford & Bingley (B&B), with deposits of £22bn, 2.6m customers, 197 branches and 140 agencies, from the UK government, two days after the government had nationalised B&B.