This exercise will complete later this year as we have forecasted. The focus will now start to move to simplification and as the integration initiative is complete, more resources will be freed up to deliver the simplification initiatives I outlined to you in June.
We have continued to make significant progress in reducing the group's risk profile and strengthening the balance sheet. We have reduced our noncore assets by GBP 31 billion in the last 6 months and it now stands at GBP 162 billion. We've improved our funding position with GBP 25 billion of term fund raised in the first half and grew our core relationship deposits by 3% in the same period. These actions have facilitate further substantial reductions in liquidity support from government and Central Bank facilities with only GBP 37 billion now outstanding at the end of the half year.
We also continue to progress the Verde disposal process. There is not much I can report here, but we have now received the number of indicative offers, which we are reviewing. We will now move on with the process and we continue to expect to have identified the purchase by the end of this year. In line with the original timetable, we do not expect the transaction to complete until 2013, even the complex separation and business migration issues that will need to be resolved.
I want to provide some additional information in the next few slides on the very real progress we are making on our commitment to placing the customer at the heart of everything we do. The group continues to prioritize support for the U.K.'s economic recovery at both corporate and retail levels through the range of services we provide to our business and mortgage customers. Within the Merlin agreement with the U.K. government, the group and 4 other major U.K. banks are asking for the intention to enhance support for the U.K. economic recovery by jointly delivering increased gross business lending in 2011 compared to 2010. Based on performance in the first half of this year, the group is on track to deliver its full year contribution to the Merlin lending agreements. As at the end of June 2011, we have provided GBP 21.2 billion of committed gross lending to U.K. businesses, of which GBP 6.7 billion has been to SMEs. The year-on-year growth to SMEs was 2% as at the end of June 2011, which continues to compare favorably with the negative growth of 4% in SME lending across the industry reported in the latest available data from the Bank of England.Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com