UPDATE 1-UK's Waitrose to add 4,000 jobs in expansion drive

* Agrees to buy 13 Co-Op/Somerfield stores

* To open at least nine other stores in 2009

(Adds detail)

LONDON, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Upmarket British food retailer Waitrose said on Thursday it would add around 4,000 jobs by acquiring 13 stores and opening at least nine more this year.

The group, part of employee-owned retailer John Lewis [JLP.UL], said it had agreed to buy 13 stores from the mutually-owned Co-Operative Group for an undisclosed sum.

The Co-Op has been required by competition regulators to sell some stores in exchange for winning approval to complete its acquisition of rival Somerfield.

The 22 new shops in total will take Waitrose’s estate to 220 stores in the UK.

Waitrose said over 1,000 employees at the 13 Somerfield stores would join it, with a further 500 new jobs created at these branches.

The nine new shops would also result in over 2,000 store jobs, with an additional 500 in operational support, it added.

“There is a real weight of evidence that businesses that continue to invest during tough economic times fare much better when the economy begins to recover,” said Waitrose Managing Director Mark Price.

“Our new shops will help ensure Waitrose is in the best shape possible coming out of the recession.” (Reporting by Mark Potter)


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