Burges Salmon advises Co-op Group on £249m sale of Farms business to the Wellcome Trust

A multidisciplinary team from Burges Salmon has advised Co-operative Group on the sale of its Farms business. The net proceeds of the sale will reduce debt and invest in its core businesses.

04 August 2014

Burges Salmon has advised Co-operative Group on the sale of its Farms business. 

The sale reflects The Co-operative’s decision to focus on its core Retail and Consumer Services divisions, including Food, Funeralcare, General Insurance and Legal Services.

The net proceeds of the Farms sale will be used to further reduce The Co-operative’s debt and invest in its core businesses.

The sale of the business as a going concern incorporates The Co-operative’s existing farming operations, and includes:

  • 15,997 hectares (39,533 acres) of freehold and third party owned land
  • 15 farms, including 3 pack houses
  • Over 100 residential properties
  • 27 commercial properties.

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.”

The Burges Salmon team was led by Corporate partner Nick Graves and Real Estate partner Alastair Morrison with support from senior Corporate associate Ed Barratt, Matthew Brace (Corporate solicitor), Pete Roberts (Real Estate associate), Zoe Atkinson (Real Estate associate), Jenny Tran (Corporate solicitor), Chris Palmer (Corporate trainee) and Joshua Gilbert (Real Estate trainee). Partner Philip Davey and solicitor Chris Lewis advised on separation matters. Sarah Embleton and Katie Wooller advised on HR matters. Other key members of the Burges Salmon team included Nigel Popplewell (partner, Tax), Nicola Manclark (senior associate, Tax), Lizzie James (solicitor, Tax), John Dunn (partner, Real Estate), Emily Scaife (solicitor, banking), Michael Hayles (partner, Pensions) and James Green (senior associate, Employment).

Alastair Morrison, partner in Burges Salmon's Food, Farming and Land sector team, said: 

“The sale of the Co-operative Group’s English and Scottish farmland portfolio and of its Farms business is one of the largest rural land transactions in recent history. A cross-border transaction with a tight deadline, transferring such a large area of land through a company sale, requires organisation and dedication. 

'I am very pleased that the team of partners, lawyers and various support staff from the property, corporate, employment, commercial and tax departments, and totalling over 40 over the course of the last eight months, was able to work so closely with our client and its other advisers, to produce a successful result.'

Key contact

Nick Graves

Nick Graves Partner

  • Corporate Advice
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Reorganisations and Demergers

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