Banco Santander's (NYSE:STD) report of second-quarter earnings on Wednesday is likely to be just an appetizer preceding the feast of interest in the bank's attempt to become part owner of Dutch banking giant ABN Amro (NYSE:ABN). The $96 billion proposed merger, which faces scorching competition, involves a consortium of interests led by Royal Bank of Scotland.

On Wednesday, investors will learn whether Banco Santander, the largest bank in Spain by market cap, will see profits grow by 21%, as it has estimated.

The final resolution of the merger proposal is much further in the future. The deal is being challenged by rival Barclays (NYSE:BCS), which has also made a bid, and a messy court battle is looming. Then there's the side deal in which ABN has agreed to sell its LaSalle unit to Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) as part of being acquired by Barclays'. But such a sale would make ABN less attractive to the consortium, which wants to divvy up all of its assets among the partners. Santander would receive the Latin American assets.

A shareholder vote on the $21 billion LaSalle deal would probably help the consortium, since its bid for ABN is higher than the Barclays' bid. But ABN has so far side-stepped letting shareholders decide. Although a lower court ruled that the vote was necessary, the Dutch advocate general has said it is not, and the country's high court tends to follow his rulings.

After earnings are released, we'll be able to wade through the data, and then we'll get to see the spectacle of the court ruling and what that does to the offers. Before that, however, let's review what investors think about Banco Santander as a long-term investment. To get the pulse of the community, I tap into Motley Fool CAPS, where more than 59,000 investors have weighed in on 4,700 stocks, Banco Santander among them. Here's what Fools have to say about the company.

Up or down?
More than 110 CAPS investors have given their opinion on Banco Santander, with only one expressing doubts about its ability to outperform the market. Nearly half of the players chiming in are considered All-Stars, meaning they consistently outperform their peers. As you'd expect, the company sports the top CAPS rating: five stars.

Banco Santander stands at the top of companies considered its peers, although most in the group seem to be highly rated by the CAPS community.

Foreign Money Center Banks

CAPS Rating

Banco Santander

*****

ABN Amro

*****

Barclays

*****

Lloyds TSB (NYSE:LYG)

****

Royal Bank of Canada (NYSE:RY)

****

Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB)

***

Banco Latinoamericano de Exportaciones

**

Wall Street vs. Main Street
Despite its size and reach, there's only one analyst that follows Banco Santander, rating it a hold. Undoubtedly, the slim following on Wall Street is because the financial institution offers products and services primarily in Spain, Portugal, and Latin America, along with the U.K., Germany, and Italy. Since there is no following, there are also no estimates for revenues and earnings.

Bull pitch
That hasn't stopped CAPS investors from weighing in, like All-Star dcrednek, who writes, "Banco Santander, a Spanish bank that has quietly moved up the ranks of global finance giants. Growth by careful, well-managed acquisition has proven good thus far and should continue to provide the 'special sauce.' "

Bear pitch
While sentiment certainly isn't universal that Banco Santander will beat the market, no one has penned a bear argument as to why they think it won't.

My pitch
While the growth prospects for the institution seem intact, with Latin America in particular providing fertile ground, the possibility that the consortium of banks going after ABN will press forward even if it is dealt a court setback may prove distracting, if not something of a drain on earnings.

Yet this one deal is not a make-or-break one for Santander. While analysts have been loath to follow the bank, management has shown itself to be worthy, conservative stewards. It has estimated growth in excess of 20% for the year and, if it can be achieved, it should make Banco Santander a worthy investment.

Your pitch
To add your thoughts to those of the wise Fools above and explore the multitude of financial data that's been compiled on the company, just click here.

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Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.