Australian retail conglomerate Wesfarmers is selling UK home improvement chain Homebase for a nominal £1 just two years after buying it.

The sale ends an embarrassing offshore adventure that cost Wesfarmers $1 billion and sows doubts about its future investments. 

The owner of the second biggest Australian supermarket Coles said London-based turnaround specialist Hilco will buy its 255-store UK DIY chain. 

It said the UK exit would bring an up to £230m loss this year.

After paying A$700m for Homebase in 2016 and then launching a $700m rebranding, Wesfarmers took a $1 billion write off this year, admitting it bungled the takeover with basic errors like failing to stock its stores for the chilly UK winter. 

Like several other Australian companies, Wesfarmers failed to replicate its domestic success in the UK by misjudging that market.

The failed deal raises questions about the company's new strategy of divesting Coles to pay for higher-growth investments. 

The decision by a former Wesfarmers CEO to take the company's Australian home improvement business, Bunnings, offshore met broad investor support initially, given its long run of double-digit profit growth spurred by an explosion of home improvement television shows.

But the high brand recognition of Bunnings in Australia amounted to little in the UK, and soon Wesfarmers was reporting declining earnings contributions from Homebase, before writing off the asset completely this year. 

Wesfarmers made several "self-induced" blunders with Homebase, including dropping popular lines for kitchens and bathrooms and underestimating winter demand for a range of items from heaters to cleaning and storage, CEO Rob Scott said in February this year. 

The UK market proved to be "very competitive (and) the macro and the retail conditions in the UK are quite challenging", Scott, who took the role a year after the Homebase purchase, said on a media call today. 

Asked how investors could trust Wesfarmers with future acquisitions, Scott said he hoped "the action that we've taken today demonstrates the capability of our team to act decisively and diligently to make the right capital allocation decisions".