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Spain’s multinational banks
Foreign subsidiaries are proving a headache for big Spanish banks
DURING the financial crisis, it looked like a stroke of genius. Huge foreign operations helped succour Spain’s two biggest banks, Santander and BBVA. Last year Santander boasted that it was one of the few big international banks not to have suffered a single quarterly loss throughout the crisis. But diversification cuts both ways: turmoil in emerging markets is now sapping profits at Santander and BBVA just as their home market recovers.
Less than 30 years ago, Santander was a smallish Spanish retail bank. Now it is a titan, operating in ten “core” countries, including emerging markets such as Brazil and mature ones such as Britain. BBVA, too, boasts a big retail-banking operation in multiple countries.