Alpha Bank, Greece’s second-largest lender by assets, yesterday kicked off the round of the sector’s expected favorable first-half results by reporting a 73.5 percent jump in net income, bolstered by a strong performance in retail operations and a one-off sale. Earnings after tax and minorities reached 218.5 million euros, compared with 126 million in the first half of 2003. The sale of the outsourcing unit of information technology subsidiary Delta Singular to US-based First Data added 38 million euros to the net profit. CEO Yiannis Costopoulos said the bank continued its satisfactory performance in the second quarter by expanding its online business and keeping a lid on costs. «We see opportunities for bolstering shareholder value from the continued restructuring of our operations, redeployment of staff and further gearing of the branch network,» he added. He said Alpha Bank, as the official bank of the Olympic Games in the last three years, has utilized its sponsorship to consolidate its market position and attract new customers. Loans to retail customers and small enterprises grew 27.7 percent and 11.6 percent respectively. Net interest income advanced 18.9 percent to 505.3 million euros. The net interest margin grew 3.28 percent in the second quarter compared to 3.16 percent in the first quarter, mainly as a result of a portfolio restructuring, with fewer repos and larger consumer credit balances. Margins in corporate credit and mortgages remained stable. Core operating revenue advanced 21.1 percent and operating expenses grew 4.1 percent year-on-year. Commission income was up 29.5 percent to 172.9 million euros, despite growing only 2.1 percent in the second quarter due to a slump in stock market trading. Operating expenses remained below 50 percent of revenue. Return on equity was 20.4 percent. Foreign operations in the Balkans and Cyprus contributed 8.6 percent of the group’s consolidated profit in the first half, more than doubling from last year, Alpha said.