Co-op sells farming division for £249m

The embattled Co-operative Group has agreed to sell its farms business to the Wellcome Trust for £249 million, just weeks after sealing a deal to offload its pharmacies chain.

The sale, to the health-focused charitable foundation Wellcome Trust, comes as Co-op seeks to focus on its core retail, funeral and general insurance services after last year’s discovery of a £1.5 billion black hole in its banking arm’s finances.

Interim chief executive Richard Pennycook said: “The successful sale of our farms business is another important development for the Co-operative Group.

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“The sale proceeds will enable us to further reduce our debt and progress with the delivery of the clear strategic plans we have in place for our core retail and consumer services’ divisions.”

Under the deal, Wellcome Trust is buying a business with 39,533 acres of land, 15 farms, more than 100 residential properties and 27 commercial properties.

Wellcome chief investment officer Danny Truell said: “We believe that we are ideally placed to develop and grow the Co-operative Group’s farms and farm business while providing continuity, and are delighted to have acquired them in what will be one of the largest global deals of its kind.”

On 18 July, Co-op struck a £620m deal to sell its pharmacy stores to Bestway, the family-owned company behind convenience store chain Best-One.