The sale of the 100-year old business Strutt & Parker Farms (distinct from the estate agent of the same name) will provide a good test of what is happening to the UK land market given the uncertainties surrounding Brexit.
One thing is clear, though, the amount of support available to farmers from government will diminish. However, it is claimed not to be particularly significant for this business given diversification.
At an estimated value of more than £200m it will the biggest farming transaction since the Co-op sold its 16,000 hectare Farmcare business to the Wellcome Trust in 2014 for £209m. Some observers think that there are fewer buyers around than in 2014. Strutt & Parker farms 13,450 hectares, of which it owns around 43 per cent.
It operates in East Anglia across Essex, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. It is a diverse business with residential, office and other commercial lettings along with renewable energy and a natural burial site. It made a profit of £3.3m on £17m of turnover in the year to March 2017. A new anaerobic digestion plant is expected to boost revenues to £21m in 2018.
There has been considerable early interest from individuals, property businesses, farming companies and pension funds. There are divergent views about whether there should be a premium or a discount for scale. Splitting the land up is unlikely to happen.