THE Co-operative Group and Britain's biggest independent society, United Co-operatives, are in talks about merging the two societies.
Formal discussions have already begun and the boards of both societies are hoping for a positive outcome.
No timetable for the merger discussions is being revealed at this stage and, in a brief joint press release, the Group and United say a further statement will be issued when the discussions are concluded.
If successful, the merger will be the most far reaching in the history of the UK Co-operative Movement, eclipsing the millennium year coming together of CWS and CRS, which led to the formation of the Group.
The proposed new society would be the world's seventh largest co-operative and mutual organisation and the largest consumer co-operative with a combined turnover of £ 10bn, according to the Global 300 list compiled by the International Co-operative Alliance.
Although the announcement comes within months of United Chief Executive Peter Marks' call for the Movement to "act as one" by creating a single national co-op, it is being emphasised by all sides that no other independent societies are involved in the current discussions.
Further coverage in the Co-op News, published 12th December.