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Santander Brasil warns of borrower debt risk, seeks to cut credit card limits

Banco Santander (Brasil) SA CEO Sérgio Rial said the bank is adopting a more cautious stance as it sees a "risk of overindebtedness" among borrowers as some financial institutions have begun lending more aggressively, Valor Econômico reported.

In response, the Brazilian unit of Spain's Banco Santander SA will look to lower the credit limit on about 500,000 cardholders, Rial reportedly said. The executive also expects to see "very significant structural unemployment" globally, prompting the bank to employ such measures

Looking ahead, the bank plans to pay closer attention to micro and small businesses. It also aims to be the largest lender for agriculture as it sees a lack of support among banks for that segment, Rial added.

By the turn of the year, Santander Brasil slashed 25% of customer debt that were overdue by 90 or more days, the CEO said. Although considered an "unusual" measure, the executive said "it is the obligation of a financial institution to do what is possible" for troubled borrowers.

Santander Brasil expects to remain on the growth path in 2019 after ranking as the second most profitable bank in the country last year, Rial said. The bank's ROE rose to 19.9% from 16.9% the previous year, according to Valor.