The Wellcome Trust has bought The Co-operative Group’s farming portfolio for £249m (€314m).

The UK-based charity said the deal would add a “thriving farming business” to its £16.5bn portfolio, which includes property and agricultural land valued at £1.8bn in September last year.

A source with knowledge of the portfolio said there was potential for turning the business into an ‘Op-Co/Prop-Co’ structure where farming operations would be separated from the land and property assets.

The portfolio includes 15,997 hectares of freehold and third-party owned land, including more than 100 residential and 27 commercial properties. The sale also includes the transfer of 250 employees and the Co-operative’s existing farming operations.

The Wellcome Trust said it had invested in the business for the long term, which will now trade as Farmcare Trading.

Danny Truell, CIO at the charity, said: “The trust’s philosophy is to provide long-term investment for the businesses and property we hold, in good times and in bad.”

Richard Pennycook, interim group chief executive of The Co-operative Group, said sale proceeds would help the group further reduce its debt.