Comms key to A&L deal

Alliance & Leicester will have to turn its attention to consumer comms if it wants the likely £1.3bn takeover by Banco Santander to be a success, according to City experts.

Santander: Maitland hire
Santander: Maitland hire

But the UK bank cannot 'put all its eggs in one basket' in case another bidder comes in, warned one PRO with links to Santander. 'It is very dangerous from a tactical point of view to start eulogising about Santander before the deal is completed,' he said. 'It has to be sure the deal will go through before the heavyweight consumer comms starts in earnest.'

Santander also acquired high-street bank Abbey in 2004. It used the Abbey comms team headed by Matthew Young to announce the A&L deal.

This week it also emerged that Abbey used Maitland for comms support, having initially used Angus Maitland's firm for the 2004 deal (it was not retained afterwards).

Maitland senior consultant Martin Leeburn led the agency's involvement.

Alliance & Leicester is using retained agency Brunswick for this acquisition. Brunswick also has experience of the ever-growing Spanish Santander outfit, having also worked on the 2004 Abbey deal.

The A&L deal itself saw a flurry of activity on Monday morning, with an announcement suggesting talks were being held with an unknown firm almost immediately backed up by another saying the deal was agreed.

'Alliance & Leicester felt it had got pretty close, but not all the way, to a deal and the market was open so it put out the (earlier) announcement,' said Maitland founder Angus Maitland.

Confirmation came initially through BBC journalist Robert Peston, followed by a company press release.

Comms figures involved in the previous deal suggested Santander may find it easier this time around.

'It was an unknown quantity before so, although it avoided a terribly rough ride last time, there was still some despondency about a Spanish firm eating up a British mainstay,' said the senior City PRO. 'There should be no foreign bashing this time at all. Santander is known to be one of Europe's best-run banks.'

He added that Santander gained its reputation after suffering as a result of the currency collapse in South America and making sure the firm was run tightly thereafter.

This is one of the factors in its continued success during the global credit crunch.

HOW I SEE IT

Bobby Morse, Partner, Buchanan Communications

The issues post-acquisition for Santander will be about communicating effectively to its stakeholders. Its new shareholders (Alliance & Leicester investors) will want to understand what they will be investing in if they accept shares rather than cash; the underlying customer base will want to know from whom they are borrowing; and the regulators will want assurance on financial stability. Though it is a small bolt-on acquisition for Santander, it will need to convey to existing shareholders why it is acquiring Alliance & Leicester, particularly on its overseas acquisition policy, and how the acquisition fits with its existing UK strategy, of which Abbey National is a key component.

 

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