CO-OPERATIVE Group Chief Executive Martin Beaumont has hit back at his critics in the Movement by insisting that the Group is expanding and investing more than ever.
In an exclusive interview with the News, Mr Beaumont denies that Group is "selling off the family silver" following last year's disposal of Goliath footwear and the decisions to scale down the farmcare business and seek a potential buyer for the ACC milk processing and distribution network.
And he is unrepentant about the strategic decision taken a few years ago to progressively leave the superstore sector.
Mr Beaumont told the News: "We need to ensure that we are in businesses that best meet our members' interests and where we have the opportunity to be truly successful.
"The reality is that we are expanding and investing far more than we are divesting and if we didn't divest those businesses where they either need lots and lots of capital or if it's very difficult to see how they can give us a great future, we would have less resources to invest in those businesses that we can successfully expand.
"From time to time, we have to take difficult decisions, but it would be wrong of the board and management to shirk them and leave them to subsequent generations."
Mr Beaumont predicted that, if current plans come to fruition, he would hope to be able to announce another major acquisition for the Group within the next six months, but declined to name the business concerned.
In relation to the decision to concentrate mainly on the convenience store sector, Mr Beaumont acknowledged that the sector is becoming more competitive in terms of acquisitions, but said there is still plenty of opportunity for growth.
By contrast, the superstore sector is even more competitive, said Mr Beaumont, who pointed out that in recent years, major retailers such as Sainsburys and Safeway had found the going "incredibly tough."
The Chief Executive revealed that there had been "considerable interest" shown in the ACC milk processing business, but said no agreement to sell had been reached and it was too early to say when or even if the business would be sold.
? Full interview in the Co-operative News weekending 8th May.