The UK’s Cooperative Group has boosted its position in the convenience store sector with the acquisition of the Balfour chain of 76 corner shops and 35 newsagents for £30m (US$49.6m).

The chain had been owned by Balfour’s management and private equity firm 3i, and will increase the number of Co-op food stores to 1,829. The Co-op plans to convert the new stores into its own Welcome format.

“The Co-operative Group has beaten off strong competition to acquire the business at a time when there is a great deal of activity in this sector,” Julian Davison, director at 3i, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The Co-op, which bought 630 convenience stores from Alldays last year, has been increasing its presence in the sector as several leading supermarket chains have started to branch out into smaller stores.