Alpha net 41.5 pct up

Alpha Bank, Greece’s third-largest lender, said yesterday its nine-month group net profit rose 41.5 percent to 670 million euros, above market expectations, on strong lending growth at home and abroad and an asset sale. Analysts in a recent Reuters poll had forecast on average net earnings would rise 37.4 percent to -650 million. «In the third quarter we continued growing robustly, unaffected by the recent turmoil in credit markets,» Alpha’s Chief Executive Dimitris Mantzounis said in a statement. «We are increasingly confident that our performance will exceed expectations and are prepared to reflect this in the forthcoming review of our business plan.» The group is targeting earnings per share growth of at least 20 percent annually during 2007-2010, based on its current business plan. Greek banks have been enjoying a retail credit boom at home as households take advantage of low real interest rates to buy property and consumer goods. Foreign operations are increasingly feeding their profits. Alpha Bank, also present in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania and Cyprus, said total loans grew 24.8 percent to 40.3 billion euros helped by strong credit expansion in Greece and in Southeast Europe. Its net interest income rose 10.7 percent to -1.168 billion, with its net interest margin at 2.6 percent. (Reuters)