Santander Said to Explore Strategic Options for Broking Unit

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Banco Santander SA, Spain’s largest bank, is exploring strategic options for its equity brokerage business that may lead to the sale of part or all of the division, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Kepler Cheuvreux SA, a financial-services company that has partnered with other European banks, is considering a deal with Santander, said one person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Santander may still decide to keep the equity unit and a final decision hasn’t been made, the people said.

Chairman Ana Botin is focusing on the bank’s main business of lending to companies and individuals in its 10 key markets to boost profitability. Earlier this year, Santander agreed to merge its asset-management business with UniCredit SpA’s Pioneer Global Asset Management SpA unit.

A spokeswoman for Santander in Madrid declined to comment. Two officials for Kepler Cheuvreux in Paris and Geneva referred a request for comment to Laurent Quirin, a co-founder of the company, who didn’t return calls and e-mails.

Santander offers clients trading of stocks and equity derivatives, with operations in Madrid, London, New York and Sao Paulo. The bank doesn’t disclose the unit’s revenue nor the number of employees. Its global banking and markets division, which includes equities, employed about 3,100 at the end of last year and earned about 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) in 2014, or 20 percent of the bank’s income.

Jacques Ripoll was named head of the global banking and markets division in November, when Botin replaced several top managers, including the chief executive officer. Ripoll, 49, was the head of the unit at Santander UK.

Kepler Cheuvreux in recent years combined its equity business with that of France’s Credit Agricole SA and Italy’s UniCredit. Some lenders in Europe have exited the equity trading business after margins dropped.

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