Major banks have reportedly exceeded their targets for lending to businesses but narrowly missed targets for offering finance to small and medium firms. The British Bankers Association, a trade body for banks, said the five banks that made loan commitments to the Government under the Project Merlin agreement lent £214.9bn last year, against a target of £190bn. For small and medium firms, £74.9bn was lent - the target was £76bn. In 2010, the figure was £66bn. A spokesman for the Merlin banks - Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, RBS and Santander - said: “The Merlin banks have met their overall business lending commitments. This performance demonstrates the banks’ commitment to providing businesses with the financial support they need to invest and grow and the significant progress made this year.” “The bank’s efforts to encourage customers to come forward with borrowing proposals are set against this overall challenging economic environment. The business demand for credit remains weak.”