The Co-operative Group has sold two shops to Sainsbury's. The stores, in Littleborough, Lancashire, and Haltwhistle, Northumberland, are two of eight outlets the society was ordered by competition watchdogs to sell following its merger with United Co-operatives in July last year.

The OFT ruled the merger would result in a "substantial lessening" of competition in eight local areas because some towns would have two Co-ops.

The Co-op Group agreed to sell them to avoid a referral of the deal to the Competition Commission. The society is in negotiations with interested parties for the remaining six stores.