UPDATE 1-Santander declines comment eyeing Bank of Ireland

Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:23am EDT

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MADRID, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Spain's largest bank Santander (SAN.MC) declined on Friday to comment on media reports it is eyeing Bank of Ireland (BKIR.L).

A spokesman for Santander also declined to comment on a report on the Financial Times website that it is considering bidding for US bank Washington Mutual (WM.N).

The FT cited people familiar with the matter as saying five banks including Santander had come forward to evaluate WaMu's financial records as part of an auction run by the Seattle-based savings and loans company's adviser.

Apart from Santander, JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N), Wells Fargo, Citigroup (C.N) and HSBC (HSBA.L) are looking at WaMu's books, the FT said.

Last week, Santander lost out to Deutsche Bank in a bid for Deutsche Postbank's (DPBGn.DE) Postbank arm.

"Santander is still on the acquisition trail, and having lost out in Germany, it could well be looking at WaMu," said a U.S. asset manager who did not wish to be named.

"But I don't rule out the Bank of Ireland talk either. Ireland and Germany, as well as the US and the UK, are target markets for the Spanish bank.

"And there are so many price attractive potential banking buys out there in the wake of the financial crisis, that Santander has got to be champing at the bit."

Santander rose 15 percent at the open, and was up around 7 percent at 10.57 euros at 0721 GMT.

(Reporting by Judy MacInnes and Robert Hetz; editing by Sarah Morris and Sue Thomas)

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