Piraeus Bank, Greece’s fifth largest by assets, confirmed yesterday that profits are improving in the sector, as it posted a better-than-expected 13.3-percent rise in first-half group net earnings. Reporting under Greek accounting standards, the bank said group net profit after minorities reached 46.1 million euros, above a consensus forecast of 44.8 million. Earnings per share improved to 0.28 euro, up from 0.24 in the same period a year earlier. Piraeus, with a current market value of 1.46 billion euros, said its net interest margin improved by eight basis points to 2.46 percent in the first half, with net interest income up 5.8 percent at 182.8 million euros. Commission income rose 14.9 percent to 50.5 million euros, reflecting increased lending activity and investment banking fees during the second quarter. Trading income rose to 33.4 million euros from 9.8 million in the first half of 2002. Loans grew 19 percent to 9.71 billion euros, with home loans and consumer credit making up 28.5 percent of the bank’s loan portfolio.