How Healthy Is Banco Santander?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- First, a shout-out to Jim Cramer. I love the way you pronounce "Banco Santander." Please give us another sampling of it on "Mad Money" Friday.

After the market closes that day, Spanish bank Banco Santander's ( SAN) Argentine subsidiary, Banco Santander Rio, will report earnings for the first quarter of 2013.

SAN is a widely followed stock that trades almost seven million shares each day in the U.S. alone. If you were to purchase shares at the low on Thursday of $7.29 you'd be expecting a dividend yield-to-price of 8.37%. That's enough to make an income-oriented investor dance the flamenco with gusto.

Banco Santander is a global financial company that provides retail banking products and services for private customers, small and medium enterprises, and a host of companies in Brazil, Spain, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Portugal, Germany, Chile, Argentina, Poland and the United States.

Yes, it is headquartered in Madrid, so it does have a good bit of the "eurozone phobia" attached to it. That's probably one of the reasons Cramer and Research Director Stephanie Link would not include SAN in the ActionAlertsPlus portfolio.

If you're not adverse to some speculation, you'll be paid well to consider it as a speculative holding. After all, it's into some lucrative businesses, which include retail banking, global wholesale banking, plus asset management and insurance.

With 14,392 branches it most likely falls into the category of "too big to fail." May I remind you that the central bank of Europe has made it clear it stands ready to bail out the major financial centers of Spain, Portugal, Italy and even Cyprus?

SAN stands tall among its peers of European banking money-makers. It profits from corporate banking, treasury and investment banking activities. It designs and manages mutual and pension funds, investment companies and its clients' pension plans.

If that doesn't sound lucrative enough, it manages real estate investment products and offers trade financing and wholesale banking services. It even has an English-language version of its Web site, which I encourage you to peruse thoroughly.

SAN's first-quarter report was released April 25. In spite of a challenging economic situation in its core regions the bank reported a "...sharp profit increase over the fourth quarter 2012 with attributable profit almost three times higher."

Excluding non-recurring items, in the fourth quarter 2012 SAN had what it calls an increase in "attributable profit" of almost 18%.

I'd recommend that before you invest in shares of SAN you carefully read its official first-quarter 2013 financial report.

As you look at the five-year chart of SAN's stock price below you can see that it bounced off its 52-week low of $4.88 and has moved steadily higher in choppy fashion. The big questions now include can it sustain its dividend and is last quarter's 10% year-over-year decrease in revenue to $33.81 billion a harbinger for the rest of 2013. SAN Chart SAN data by YCharts

Since Banco Santander's business model includes providing financial advice and asset management for high-net-worth clients, private equity for venture capital, brokerage of insurance products and a robust credit card division, an economic recovery in Europe should help reverse SAN's fortunes.

This global financial titan even has a collection services and payment processing segment for merchants in numerous nations. Yet, in the first quarter of 2013 its quarterly year-over-year EPS was down 26%, despite a hearty 23.33% trailing 12-month operating margin.

So the news from SAN's Argentine subsidiary will be just one small insight into the Spanish company's condition. I say "small" because Argentina is not one of its major profit centers. Also I want to point out that SAN's payout ratio for its dividend is, according to Morningstar, a hard to sustain 222%.

If its quarterly report is accurate, SAN has over $480 billion in total cash as of the quarter ending March 31, 2013. It claims that it earned $3.41 per share in revenue in the first quarter 2013. The two analysts that cover SAN are estimating close to a 30% increase in sales growth and revenue for all of 2013.

If you choose to buy shares of SAN I wholeheartedly encourage you to use a stealth trailing stop-loss system that lets you monitor your positions as well as set and receive alerts on trailing stop levels so you can know the optimum time to sell and thus protect yourself from unacceptable losses.

If the global economy improves, and with the eurozone's continued recovery on the back of the central bank's monetary accommodation, companies like Banco Santander should directly benefit. If we can believe the key financial numbers on SAN then there may be even more to celebrate in short order.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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