Britain's Co-Op Group announces £2.5bn annual loss

Thursday 17 April 2014 10.24
The losses come on the back of the near-collapse of the Co-operative Group's banking arm
The losses come on the back of the near-collapse of the Co-operative Group's banking arm

Britain’s Co-operative Group has announced annual losses of £2.5 billion after suffering the worst crisis in its history following the near-collapse of its banking arm.

Interim chief executive Richard Pennycook said: "2013 was a disastrous year for the Co-operative Group, the worst in our 150-year history.

"Today's results demonstrate that but they also highlight fundamental failings in management and governance at the group over many years.

"These results should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who doubts just how serious the challenges we face are."

The bulk of the losses relate to the crisis that engulfed the Co-op's banking arm when a £1.5 billion hole was discovered in its finances, following its ill-fated purchase of the Britannia building society and attempts to buy more than 600 Lloyds branches.

A rescue deal means the majority of the bank is now owned by bondholders though the Co-op group remains the largest single shareholder with 30%.

But this stake may be further diluted after it said in today's statement that it had still not decided whether to take part in a £400 million rights issue after the lender said it needed to find more cash than previously thought.

The group said the cash call was an "opportunity, not an obligation" and that it would "consider the full details of the issue in due course".

It will add to speculation about the possibility of the size of the group's holding in the bank falling to such a low level that it may not be able to continue operating under the Co-operative brand.