UPDATE 1-Auditors PwC looking to complete Steinhoff probe by end-2018

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CAPE TOWN, March 28 (Reuters) - Auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said they would like to finalise a complex forensic investigation into the affairs of Steinhoff International by year-end, a senior investigator said on Wednesday.

Steinhoff, which has more than 40 retail brands that include Conforama and Poundland, is in a fight for survival after admitting "accounting irregularities" in December, wiping about 85 percent off its market value and triggering a liquidity crisis.

Louis Strydom, who heads PwC's African forensic services unit told a joint committee meeting of parliament looking into the Steinhoff scandal, said the auditing firm was dealing with a conglomerate consisting of more than 700 individual entities operating in 32 jurisdictions.

"This is complex, it's not simple. We are working with a team of people across seven countries in the world," he said.

"Our aim is, between now and the end of the year, to package this and put it in a box and conclude our investigation."

The scandal led to the resignation of senior executives including CEO Markus Jooste, who oversaw the company's rapid expansion over almost two decades, resigned on Dec. 5 as the accounting scandal broke.

The former CEO has not made a public statement since and could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Jooste sent a letter via his lawyers saying he would not attend the parliamentary inquiry over fears it could prejudice possible criminal investigations against him.

Steinhoff has reported Jooste to South Africa's elite Hawks police unit over suspected corruption. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf Editing by James Macharia)