Belfast Telegraph

700 Homebase jobs could be saved by new owner

Up to 700 jobs could be saved at DIY chain Homebase after the retailer's new owner said it would scrap a plan to close stores.

Australian retail giant Wesfarmers said it was looking to keep open 18 stores previously earmarked for closure in a move that will protect between 500 and 700 jobs.

The firm has been racing to stop the store-closure plan enforced by the previous management since it bought Homebase in a £340 million deal from Argos owner Home Retail Group in February.

A spokesman said: "N ew management have successfully reversed the closure of seven Homebase stores, saving approximately 200 jobs.

"It hopes to prevent the closure of 11 more, saving up to 500 jobs.

"Unfortunately, there have been five unavoidable store closures, with approximately 200 employees affected.

"However, it is worth highlighting that any employees affected are given priority for job opportunities at other stores within a 30-mile radius."

The move comes as the company appointed retail veteran and former Asda chairman Archie Norman to a board advising on Homebase's turnaround.

The firm, which owns home improvement retailer Bunnings, also announced that it was pressing ahead with plans to rebrand Homebase's 260 UK stores under the Bunnings fascia.

Wesfarmers has a market valuation of almost £22 billion, and is the largest private sector employer in Australia with around 210,000 staff.

Homebase was originally founded by supermarket Sainsbury's as a joint venture with Belgian retailer GB-Inno-BM in 1979 as Sainsbury's Homebase.

The supermarket sold the business in 2000 for £969 million, splitting it between buyout firm Schroder Ventures and retail group Kingfisher.

Sainsbury's won a four-month battle in April to buy Home Retail Group after agreeing a £1.4 billion deal.