ECONOMY

Alpha Bank H1 net profits grow 48 pct, beat forecasts

Alpha Bank, Greece’s second-largest lender, increased net profit by a better-than-expected 48.4 percent in the first half on strong lending at home and in Southeast Europe. Yesterday the group reported net earnings of -454 million. Analysts in a recent Reuters poll had forecast net earnings would rise 43 percent to -436 million. Alpha’s results were also boosted by a one-off -82 million capital gain from the sale of insurance unit Alpha Asfalistiki to French insurer AXA late last year and booked in the first quarter. Net profit from continuing operations rose 23 percent to -374.1 million. Chief Executive Dimitris Mantzounis said the domestic business had «remarkable growth in consumer credit, small business lending and customer assets, while Southeast European operations significantly increased their market share across the board.» Alpha Bank, present in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania and Cyprus, ventured into Turkey after acquiring 50 percent of Alternatifbank last November. The group is targeting earnings per share growth of at least 20 percent annually during 2007-2010. «We are now gaining market share in consumer loans in Greece where we plan to open 20 new branches, which will boost volume growth next year,» Alpha’s Chief Financial Officer Marinos Yiannopoulos told Reuters. «Our cooperation with AXA is bearing fruit and this will be more evident in the third quarter.» Alpha said net interest income rose 8.3 percent to -752.5 million, with its net interest margin, net of impairment charges, improving to 2.6 percent. The bank had strong growth in Southeast Europe with lending up 70 percent, making up 15 percent of its total loan portfolio and outpacing a 16.5 percent credit expansion rate at home. Retail credit made up 53 percent of Alpha’s loan book. These results along with those of Eurobank, Piraeus Bank and Attica Bank, all out this week, highlight the high growth rate of the economy, analysts say, as well as people’s efforts to improve their living standards by borrowing. (Reuters, Kathimerini)