Spain's Santander has today posted a first-quarter net profit up almost five-fold helped by lower impairments, record US earnings and strong growth in the UK.

The euro zone's second-biggest lender by market value booked a net profit of €1.608 billion compared to €331m a year earlier.

That beat the €1.38 billion expected by analysts polled by Reuters, though was still short of the €1.84 billion recorded in the same quarter in 2019, before the pandemic.

The bank booked no Covid-19 provisions, unlike a year earlier, when it set aside around €1.6 billion to protect its books against the potential impact from the pandemic.

A strong performance at its Corporate and Investment Bank (CIB) unit, with a 64% rise in underlying profit, also helped.

Excluding net restructuring charges of €530m, mainly in the UK and Portugal, the bank increased its underlying profit by around 50% buoyed by faster growing emerging economies such as Brazil, its main market.

Santander's diversification overseas, especially in Latin America, has helped the bank to cope with tough conditions for banks in Europe since the financial crisis.

Its US underlying profit jumped to €616m from €60m, making it the highest contributor among all markets.

Santander said that in the UK, where net profit rose to €294m from €52m, it would replace its current CEO Nathan Bostock, adding that he would remain in his position until a successor was appointed.

In Spain, where its net profit climbed to €243m from €90m, the bank said that Antonio Simoes, the bank's regional chief for Europe, would be country head for Spain, replacing Rami Aboukhair.

The bank finished March with a fully loaded capital ratio (CET-1), the strictest measure of solvency, of 11.89% under new accounting standards, unchanged from the previous quarter, and within its 11-12% target.