The Wellcome Trust has acquired the Co-operative Group’s farms business – including the farm at Coldham – in a £249 million deal.
The business, which will now trade as Farmcare Trading Ltd, has been bought as a going concern, with just under 250 Farmcare employees transferring with immediate effect.
The purchase involves the Co-operative’s existing farming operations, including:
n 15,997 hectares (39,533 acres) of freehold and third party-owned land
n 15 farms, including three pack houses
n over 100 residential properties
n 27 commercial properties.
The agreement adds a thriving farming business to the Wellcome Trust’s £16.5 billion endowment, which already includes property and agricultural land, valued at £1.8 billion in September 2013.
The Trust will develop and invest in the Farmcare business, while maintaining existing services such as the Co-operative’s pioneering “Farm to Fork” education initiative.
Danny Truell, Chief Investment Officer of the Wellcome Trust, said: “We believe that we are ideally placed to develop and grow the Co-operative Group’s farms and farm business while providing continuity.
“We are delighted to have acquired them in what will be one of the largest global deals of its kind.
“The Trust’s philosophy is to provide long-term investment for the businesses and property we hold, in good times and in bad.
“We will take this approach to running Farmcare Trading Ltd as a going concern, giving a business that is already strong and successful the support and resources it needs to grow, to the benefit of employees, tenants, partners and local communities.
“Over the last 20 years, we have become one of the largest landlords in the UK as part of owning a globally diversified portfolio. We seek to be one of the most responsible.”
Richard Pennycook, Interim Group Chief Executive of The Co-operative Group, said: “The successful sale of our farms business is another important development for The Co-operative Group.
“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.
“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.”
n The Wellcome Trust is the world’s second highest-spending charitable foundation, dedicated to driving improvements in human and animal health.
It spends more than £700 million a year on supporting bright minds in biomedical research, the humanities and the social sciences, and on public engagement and education in these fields.
The Trust’s notable achievements include funding much of the sequencing of the human genetic code, and research that enabled the introduction of the frontline drugs used to fight malaria.