Alpha Bank says regional growth to double its profits

Greece’s second-largest lender Alpha Bank said yesterday it will expand operations in Southeast Europe as it seeks to double profit by 2010. Unveiling the ambitious business plan, Alpha said it expects annual earnings per share for the 2007-2010 period to rise by more than 20 percent, led by its Balkan units as lending in Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania exceeds growth in Greece. «Alpha Bank has embarked on an ambitious growth strategy in Southeastern Europe,» Dimitris Mantzounis, its managing director, said in a statement. «Due to our high profitability in the region… we decided to accelerate our planned investment.» Greek banks have been riding a retail credit boom domestically and have also expanded into the under-banked markets of Southeast Europe to secure new areas of growth, while foreign operations have increasingly fed group earnings. Alpha’s net profit growth for the 2006-2008 period is expected to be 20 percent, while the contribution from its Southeast European units to group profit is expected at about 25 percent by 2010. The lender aims to increase its banking market share in the region to 10 percent in the period and plans to open 870 branches, including 100 branches in Turkey by 2010, according to the plan. Alpha will concentrate on restructuring its regional network to focus on households and business customers, with the servicing of larger companies taken over by 10 business centers that are currently under development, the bank said. Alpha Bank’s cost-to-income ratio is expected to decline to 42 percent in 2010 from 46 percent in 2006, it said. (Reuters)

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