Piraeus Bank, Greece’s fourth-largest lender, reported yesterday a 55 percent fall in first-half net profit to 128 million euros on slower loan growth and higher provisions. The figure beat market expectations as analysts were expecting a profit of 115 million euros. Piraeus, also present in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, Cyprus, Egypt, Ukraine and the United States, said net interest income in the first half fell 5 percent to 528 million euros. Its net interest margin improved to 2.6 from 2.4 percent in the first quarter. «Conditions in the global economy continue to be difficult with significant signs, however, of a gradual recovery and stabilization in markets from the second quarter,» Piraeus Chairman Michael Sallas said in a statement. «The group’s liquidity reached historically high levels, nonperforming loans rose but at a slowing pace to 4.5 percent,» he said. Quarter-on-quarter, Piraeus net earnings grew 48 percent to 76 million euros in the three months to June. The increase in profitability during the second quarter of the year is mainly attributed to the increase of net interest income and trading gains, while all revenue sources recorded an increase, according to the lender. Alpha shares jump on H1 data Shares in Alpha Bank soared more than 8 percent on the Athens bourse yesterday after the lender suprised investors by reporting a smaller-than-expected drop in first-half earnings. Shares in Alpha gained 8.60 percent to 12 euros, pushing its market value to 4.9 billion euros, as the broader market advanced 1.59 percent. Alpha Bank reported after the close of trade on Tuesday that net profit between January and June fell 48.2 percent year-on-year to 214.7 million euros, beating a 180.5-million-euro figure expected by analysts. Proton Research said in a note to investors it was «pleased» with Alpha’s performance as quarterly improvement was evident across the board. «The outlook for the next quarters is also encouraging as the net interest margin (NIM) should continue expanding, operating expenses are contained and the cost of risk should be flattish,» it added.