Alpha Bank, Greece’s third-largest lender, said yesterday net profit in 2008 fell 33.5 percent to 512 million euros, beating market expectations. Analysts in a recent Reuters poll were forecasting a net profit figure of 485 million euros. The group, which operates in Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Serbia, said net interest income grew 12 percent last year to 1.8 billion euros. Net interest margin was resilient at 3.0 percent versus 3.1 percent in 2007. «In this tough operating environment our primary focus is on the health of our balance sheet,» Alpha’s Chief Executive Dimitris Mantzounis said in a statement. «As we are well funded and profitable and have a strong capital base with a Tier 1 ratio at 10.2 percent, we are building pre-emptively additional loan-loss reserves in anticipation of weakening credit conditions,» the CEO said. Shares in Alpha Bank ended flat yesterday at 4.54 euros versus a 0.23 percent retreat in the broader market.