Santander, the euro zone's biggest bank, today reported a 52% jump in third quarter net profit, as losses on problematic debts receded. 

The bank was helped by better earnings in Britain and Brazil, its biggest contributors to profits, and improvements in its home market, though across the group net income from lending rose slightly less than expected.

Under new boss Ana Botin, who took over as chairman from her father Emilio Botin after he died in September, Santander is still trying to ramp up income as it recovers like local peers from a financial crisis and a property crash. 

The bank upped its costs cutting target, saying it was now aiming to save €2 billion by 2016 rather than €1.5 billion. 

Santander said net interest income, a closely-watched measure of earnings from loans minus deposit costs, had grown nearly 8% in the third quarter from a year ago, to €7.47 billion. Analysts had expected NII to come in at €7.56 billion. 

Its third-quarter profit came in at €1.61 billion. 

All but one small Spanish bank passed recently European Central Bank health checks without needing extra capital, though some are yet to return to full health. 

Lending to the economy keeps shrinking and banks are still spending money cleaning up their books. 

Santander said total provisions against losses fell 15% in the nine months to September from a year ago. 

Its net profit for the nine months was up 32% on the same period in 2013 at €4.36 billion. 

The bank said that volatile emerging market currencies weighed on earnings in the first part of the year, though this effect has lessened.