MADRID (Reuters) - Santander <SAN.MC> has taken a 350 million pound ($453 million) majority stake in UK-based Ebury as part of a digital strategy to boost growth through new ventures, the Spanish bank announced on Monday.
Ebury is a trade and foreign exchange facilitator for small and medium-sized companies which operates in 19 countries and 140 currencies, Santander said in a statement.
Santander said it is acquiring 50.1% of Ebury for 350 million pounds, of which 70 million will be new primary equity to support Ebury's plans to enter new markets in Latin America and Asia.
The bank said it expects a return on invested capital (RoIC) higher than 25% in 2024.
"Small and medium-sized businesses are a major engine of growth around the world, creating new jobs and contributing up to 60% of total employment and up to 40% of national GDP in emerging economies," said Santander executive chairman Ana Botin.
Like banks across Europe, Spanish lenders have turned to more profitable enterprise lending in a bid to lift earnings as low interest rates squeeze financial margins.
Santander is also focusing on emerging economies while cutting costs to counter squeezed margins from ultra-low interest rates in mature European markets.
Santander said Ebury's existing investors, including co-founders and management, would reinvest in the transaction and the current management team will remain.
Ebury has generated average annual revenue growth of 40% in the last three years, Santander said in its statement.
(Reporting By Jesús Aguado; editing by Jason Neely)