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Spain’s Santander (SAN.MC) said on Tuesday its board had decided to make an interim distribution from 2021 earnings through a cash dividend and share buyback worth 1.7 billion euros ($2 billion), equivalent to 40% of its first-half underlying profit,

The announcement comes after the ECB said in July it would lift restrictions on bank dividend remuneration and share buybacks beyond September, clawing back a crisis measure that forced lenders to retain capital during the pandemic.

The board approved the payment of an interim cash dividend against 2021 results of 4.85 euro cents per share, equivalent to 20% of the group’s underlying profit in the first half of 2021.

In addition, it agreed to implement a share repurchase programme for about 20% of the group’s underlying profit in the first half of 2021 for approximately 841 million euros, for which it received approval from the ECB.

The bank also said it would announce a further and final distribution from 2021 earnings in the first quarter of 2022.

“Should the trend in the bank’s performance for the first half of the year continue, it would result in a total cash dividend for 2021 that is in line with the cash dividend paid in 2019, and a total buyback equivalent to around 3% of the outstanding share capital.”

The total buyback would amount to around 1.6 billion euros taking into account the current share price.

The bank said interim distributions would be made around November and final distributions around May.

The bank had already signalled that it intended to restore a dividend of 40% to 50% of underlying profit.

Santander said its revised dividend policy reflected its commitment to long-term value and deploying capital to high-return businesses whilst maintaining a fully loaded CET-1 capital, the strictest measure of solvency, at the top end of its 11-12% target.

($1 = 0.8537 euros)