The Co-operative group has sold its sprawling farming business to the Wellcome Trust as it focuses its attention on its retail and consumer divisions.
The £249m deal will be used to reduce the Co-operatives £1.4bn debt and to progress with its strategic plans. 39,000 acres of land, 15 farms, over 100 residential properties and 27 commercial properties will be sold to charitable foundation The Wellcome Trust.
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 Wellcome Trust has acquired an excellent farming business characterised by the quality and professionalism of colleagues and high levels of customer service. I expect the farming business to continue to thrive under their committed long-term ownership.”
Pennycook, who replaced chief executive Euan Sutherland after his resignation in March, is also looking to sell the Co-op’s security arm.
The Co-operative was voted the UK’s most ethical company over the past 25 years by readers of Ethical Consumer magazine despite a disastrous year in which it lost £2.5bn. Last month it sold 774 pharmacies for £620m to cash and carry giant Bestway.