ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s top three banks announced considerable profits yesterday, underscoring the expansion of the sector in the country. Akbank, the largest Turkish bank by market capitalization, said that it posted net profits of 2.041 billion lira ($1.7 billion) in 2007, up 29 percent, and said it was «very confident» about the outlook for 2008. Its growth in overall loan portfolio amounted to 32 percent, while consumer loan volumes grew 43 percent from a year earlier. «We have continued to see strong growth in all key areas of our business, while at the same time managing the business prudently through the economic uncertainty of the second half of the year,» said Akbank Chief Executive Officer Zafer Kurtul in a statement. «In what was at times a difficult market, we have produced growth in net profits of 29 percent, which is an excellent result,» he said in a statement. Gross profit rose 30 percent to 2.525 billion lira. «We are very confident about the outlook for 2008,» he added. Garanti Bank, Turkey’s second-largest lender, announced its net profit rose 107.6 percent in 2007 to 2.422 billion lira ($2 billion), as strong loan growth was accompanied by one-off asset sales. It said total loans rose 33 percent to 38.7 billion lira, while retail loans rose 35 percent. Total assets grew 33 percent to 76.2 billion lira. Garanti is owned by Turkey’s Sahenk family and a unit of General Electric. Is Bank, the third-largest by market capitalization, said in a statement its assets reached 80.2 billion lira at the end of the year and its net profit in 2007 stood at 1.7 billion lira ($1.4 billion), 53 percent higher year-on-year. European Union candidate Turkey’s banking sector has seen a series of acquisitions by foreign banks seeking exposure to fast economic growth – seen at around 5 percent this year – and a young and expanding population. But analysts say competition is fierce as banks race to grab market share, while some of the highest interest rates in emerging markets are holding back potential loan growth.