Homebase owner to create 1,000 jobs in Britain as it accelerates expansion

LONDON, June 29 (Reuters) - The Australian owner of British home improvements retailer Homebase said on Thursday it would create about 1,000 new jobs in Britain by the end of this year as it accelerates its expansion drive.

Bunnings, part of Australia's biggest retail group Wesfarmers Ltd, completed its purchase of the Homebase chain from Home Retail last year.

The firm is now planning to open 20 Bunnings stores in Britain by the end of the year, up from its previous expectation of 10 stores after the success of two pilot stores.

"Our decision to extend the pilot programme reflects the positive reaction weve seen from customers to the stores weve opened so far," said PJ Davis, managing director at Bunnings in the UK and Ireland.

Bunnings halted the planned closure of several Homebase stores a year ago, and is investing 500 million pounds to convert the entire Homebase estate to the Bunnings name and format in three years.

The piloting of new stores comes at a time when British consumer confidence has plunged following the political crisis sparked by Prime Minister Theresa May's election gamble that backfired.

Two major surveys this week showed confidence among British consumers and retailers had fallen back to levels last seen in the wake of the shock 2016 Brexit vote which thrust Britain's $2.5 trillion economy onto an uncertain path. (Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Alistair Smout and Mark Potter)