Co-op sells farms business for £249m

<p>The Wellcome Trust has purchased the Co-op’s farms business for £249 million.</p>

The Co-operative Group has announced the sale of its farms business to the Wellcome Trust in a deal worth £249 million.

It represents another effort by the troubled company to balance the books and it stated that it will now be focusing on its core retail and consumer services divisions. This will see more impetus on its funeral care, general insurance and legal services and help to reduce the group's debt while investing in its core businesses.

The deal with the Wellcome Trust will involve the sales of 15,997 hectares of freeholds and third party owned land, 15 farms and three pack houses, over 100 residential properties and 27 commercial properties. The Co-op stated that it was pleased to have secured a buyer which is dedicated to continued investment and has the dedication to drive improvements in both human and animal health.

In the past the Wellcome Trust has been responsible for the funding of the sequencing of the human genetic code and research that has helped to introduce the use of frontline drugs to fight malaria. It is currently the highest spending charitable foundation and invests £700 million a year on supporting the best talent in biomedical research and social sciences.

Richard Pennycook, interim group chief executive of The Co-op, said: "In the Wellcome Trust we have a buyer whose values are closely aligned to those of The Co-operative. They have a proven track record in managing a sustainable investment portfolio, the proceeds of which are used to fund improvements in biomedical science and learning."

The sale of the Co-op's farms business comes after it sold its 774-outlet pharmacy chain to Bestway Group in a deal worth £620 million. The move was designed to reduce the debts amassed by the group over recent years and also helped it once again to focus on different markets.

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