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Abbey may expand in UK

Retail bank Abbey will open up to 100 new branches across the UK, trebling the British operations of Spanish owner Banco Santander.

The chief executive of Banco Santander, Alfredo Saenz, told The Times the company plans to open the branches as part of a program to expand into areas where Abbey does not currently have a presence. The bank has a strong footprint in the southeast, but is weaker in the midlands and the northeast.

Mr Saenz also played down rumors that the bank is poised to make a bid for Alliance & Leicester, although he did not rule it out.

In addition to the new branches, Banco Santander is also preparing to launch a wholesale banking division in the UK called Santander Wholesale Financial Markets UK, situated on Abbey premises. The venture would use the bank’s strong position in south America to attract European investors interested in the region.