Alpha Bank, Greece’s third-largest lender, reported a loss for the first time in five quarters yesterday as the recession and the debt crisis led to higher loan provisioning and meager lending growth. Alpha reported a net loss of 10.4 million euros, including a one-off 61.9-million-euro tax. Excluding the tax, net earnings fell 39.5 percent year-on-year to 51.6 million euros, coming in above market expectations for net profits of 43 million euros. «While our balance sheet is low risk, with measured sovereign exposure, and our asset base well-collateralized, we will nonetheless continue to focus throughout the year on shielding Alpha Bank from contagion from the sovereign debt crisis and to deliver on our key priorities,» Dimitris Mantzounis, Alpha’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. Alpha Bank, which is also present in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Cyprus and Albania, said net interest income rose 13 percent to 455.8 million euros, with net interest margin resilient quarter-on-quarter at 2.6 percent. Provisioning for impaired loans rose 27.2 percent to 200 million euros as nonperforming credit increased by 60 basis points to 6.3 percent of the loan book. Alpha’s loan book grew 2.3 percent to 53.3 billion euros, with volumes expanding by 2.5 percent in Greece and by 3 percent in Southeast Europe. The bank said its Tier 1 capital adequacy ratio stood at 11.5 percent at the end of the first quarter. Banks in Greece face soaring loan losses and a potential contraction in lending as the government implements austerity measures to ensure the flow of bailout funds and stem the Mediterranean country’s debt crisis. National Bank, the nation’s largest lender, yesterday reported a 93 percent decline in first-quarter profits as loan losses rose and it had a trading loss due to its holdings of Greek government bonds.