Project Merlin SME lending shortfall increases

Major bank lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has fallen short of targets in the first nine months of the year agreed under Project Merlin.

The Bank of England today released third quarter results for the initiative that found a total of £57.4 billion has been lent by Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Santander to all UK businesses in the period. The amount is up from £53 million in Q2 and £47.3 billion in the first three months of the year.

The amount lent to SMEs in the third quarter was £18.8 billion, down from £20.5 billion in the second quarter but up compared with the £16.8 lent in Q1, the central bank reports.

While the high street banks are on track to meet the headline commitment, as the year progresses the shortfall between the SME target and actual money lent is increasing. So far this year, £56.1 billion has been lent to SMEs, £900 million less than the £57 billion half-year target. This is an increase on the gap of £700 million recorded in the half-year target.

The five banks promised the government to lend at least £190 billion in 2011 to boost the economic recovery, with £76 billion going to SMEs with a turnover of less than £25 million.

Federation of Small Business national chairman John Walker says, ‘While the banks are on course to meet lending targets to all businesses, they have yet again missed the small business target. We have said that these targets are politically driven and don’t address the lack of competition in the sector, as the main five banks control around 85 per cent of the small business banking market.

‘We need to see a clear change: more competition and new lines of credit opening for small firms if they are to help boost the recovery.


Todd Cardy

Todd Cardy

Todd was Editor of between 2010 and 2011 as well as being responsible for publishing our digital and printed magazines focusing on private equity and venture capital. Connect with...

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