Spain's Santander Central Hispano began merging its two Chilean banks in August 2002 to form the country's largest bank in terms of assets, deposits, loans and equity. The new bank, Banco Santander Chile, also makes a lot more money than its competitors, spitting out $88.9 million in pre-tax income in the second quarter of this year, over 50% more than its nearest competitor, locally owned Banco de Chile.
Pre-tax income rose by almost half to $256.7 million for the whole of last year, the third consecutive year of growth. This is quite an achievement, given Chile's sluggish growth and the $75 million in restructuring charges the merged bank took in the fourth quarter. These charges virtually eliminated the bank's fourth quarter results in 2002. Banco Santander Chile takes this year's LatinFinance award for best bank in Chile on the strength of this enviable performance.
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