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Palmer and Wrenbridge to sell Unilever’s Colworth base for £66m

Palmer Capital and Wrenbridge have put up for sale Unilever’s global research and development campus in Colworth for £66m after the consumer goods company reasserted its commitment to the UK last month.

CBRE has been appointed to market the 319,789 sq ft asset for a price that reflects a 5.62% yield. Palmer and Wrenbridge are hoping to capitalise on growing interest in investing the UK Growth Corridor between Oxford and Cambridge, which could see an east-west rail link built between the two university cities.

The 90-acre park is home to 12 office, research and development buildings, the majority of which is let to Unilever until 2034. Swiss global flavourings company Firmenich is also a tenant at the site.

Colworth has been home to Unilever since 1947 but this came under threat when the company’s board planned to relocate its headquarters to the Netherlands in order to scrap its dual listing structure amid concerns surrounding Brexit. However, a shareholder rebellion saw the company abandon the move.

Palmer and Wrenbridge bought Colworth in 2014 for around £50m from a joint venture between Unilever and Goodman.

Since the purchase Wrenbridge has “implemented an intensive asset management… to transform operations, reduce operating costs and create opportunities that will secure its future as a leading centre of innovation for scientific excellence and collaboration”.

Following the prospective sale Wrenbridge will continue to lead the promotion of 900 acres of farmland surrounding the park as a new garden village. The farmland is owned by Unilever and has capacity for up to 4,500 new homes, commercial space and train station.

Ewen McLeod, director at Wrenbridge, said: “In the past four years, Wrenbridge and Palmer Capital have enjoyed working with Unilever to develop opportunities for Colworth Science Park and its tenants. This is a crucial site that is a real asset to Bedford and the wider scientific community, and we are thrilled to be leaving it in a secure position that will enable it to grow further. The sale of the park will not impact existing or future tenants and their staff.”

“To enable Colworth Science Park to play an essential role in the UK Growth Arc, we need to offer highly skilled jobs, housing and essential infrastructure. To achieve this, Wrenbridge is committed to supporting Unilever deliver this much-needed housing and infrastructure via a new garden village that will benefit both the park and the wider community.”