(Adds details from the shareholders meeting)
By Jesús Aguado
SANTANDER, Spain, March 18 (Reuters) - Spain’s biggest bank Banco Santander announced a slight increase in this year’s dividend policy on Friday in a bid to win back minority shareholder confidence after a more than 60 percent cut in the payout in 2015.
Chairwoman Ana Botin told a shareholders meeting in the northern Spanish port of Santander, where the bank was founded, the lender would pay a dividend of 0.21 euros ($0.24) per share against 2016 earnings, a 5 percent rise from 2015.
In January 2015, soon after taking over at the bank from her late father, Ana Botin slashed dividends to 0.20 euros per share from 0.60 euros, with three out of four payments to be made in cash, as part of a plan to boost capital.
The sweetener was not enough for some shareholders who attacked the bank’s dividend policy and its recent share performance at the meeting.
“We have suffered a significant reduction in dividend payments and have also witnessed a huge loss of confidence in the share performance,” said Jose Luis Gonzalez, a minority shareholder at the event.
Santander’s shares have fallen over 11 percent in the last three months, driven partly by the slowdown in Brazil, which accounts for 19 percent of its earnings.
The bank said it would pay three dividends in cash and one in shares or cash, known as a scrip dividend, against this year’s earnings. Santander will pay 30 to 40 percent of its recurring profits in cash dividends, compared with 20 percent previously.
While Botin did not rule out purchases in key markets, she said the bank, which blazed a trail of foreign deals before the financial crisis, would focus on expanding its existing business.
“Our aim is to grow market share and to grow profitability,” Botin told shareholders.
Amid record low interest rates and stiff competition for lending in the domestic market, many Spanish banks are trying to increase revenue from international operations.
Botin said Santander was confident it would meet its profitability and capital targets for 2018.
She also announced the creation of an international advisory board, chaired by the former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, which will help manage bank’s digital transformation.
$1 = 0.8869 euros Reporting by Jesús Aguado; Editing by Alexander Smith and David Evans