Alpha Bank, Greece’s second largest by assets, yesterday reported an impressive 62.3 percent rise in first-half net profit year-on-year, boosted by core earnings growth, wider interest margins and gains in trading income. Group net profits after tax and minorities grew to 118.3 million euros, of which 60.1 million came in the first quarter and 58.2 million in the second quarter – a slide attributed to higher one-off bond trading gains in the first quarter and increased advertising outlay for new products in the second. Operating income excluding trading activities rose 9.4 percent to 565.4 million euros; net interest income grew 16.6 percent to 425 million euros and the net interest margin improved to 2.9 percent. Mortgages and consumer credit surged 46.8 percent, representing 23.4 percent of the total lending portfolio, and lending to small and medium-sized firms rose 16.5 percent. Trading income grew to 64 million euros from 30 million a year earlier. The bank said the growth of operating expenses was contained at 1.9 percent while payroll costs fell 0.9 percent. The ratio of operating expenses to total revenue improved 55.5 percent from 62.7 a year earlier. Return on equity improved to 24.1 percent from 15.1 percent year-on-year. The bank’s capital sufficiency ratio strengthened to 10.2 percent from 9.3 percent on June 30, 2002.