Alpha Bank swings a first-quarter profit

Alpha Bank, the country?s third-largest lender, reported a 10.5-million-euro net profit for the first quarter of 2011, versus a 10.4-million-euro loss in the same period last year, as cost-cutting helped shield it from deteriorating economic conditions.

The figure beat analysts? expectations, which had been for earnings of around 5 million euros.

Kicking off the first-quarter reporting season for Greek blue chip lenders, Alpha Bank said that it focused on balance sheet deleveraging, strengthening capital ratios, reducing exposure to the European Central Bank and building loan-loss provisions.

?We remain committed to improving our operational efficiency as the realignment of our cost base continues to undermine our performance,? Alpha Bank CEO Demetrios Mantzounis said in a statement on Tuesday.

Net interest income fell 5.8 percent year-on-year to 429.4 million euros, hit by the continuous strain on Greek deposits, it said.

With the economic recession in its third year, Alpha Bank said first-quarter loan impairment charges in Greece rose nearly 30 percent year-on-year to 200.1 million euros.

Nonperforming loans in Greece rose 90 basis points from the same period a year earlier to 9.6 percent, versus 8.4 percent in Southeastern Europe.

Alpha Bank is also present in Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Ukraine.

Shares in the lender, which has a market value of some 1.7 billion euros, dipped 1.80 percent yesterday to 3.27 euros versus a dip of 0.13 percent in the broader market.

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