Signet profits up 12 percent, a buyout bid ends, Burman says UK business isn’t for sale

Signet Group reported a 12 percent rise in first-half profits on Wednesday, boosted by strong sales in the United States and a return to growth in the United Kingdom, Reuters reports.

The London-based company, the recent subject of an abortive bid approach from private equity firms Apax Partners and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, reportedly said it made a pretax profit of $111 million in the six months to July 29.

Apax and KKR reportedly said on Tuesday they had dropped plans to bid for Signet without explanation. New reports had said they were considering a bid worth about $4.4 billion.

Reports have also said that former company chief Gerald Ratner is working on a bid for its UK businesses—H Samuel and Ernest Jones—and that Icelandic investor Baugur would also be interested if these businesses were put up for sale.

However, the jewelry retailer said Wednesday that the U.K. businesses were not for sale.

“It’s simply not for sale,” chief executive Terry Burman told reporters on a conference call, Reuters reports. Burman added that Signet would consider any offer for the UK business, but that numbers suggested in news reports were too low.

Signet said it gained market share in the United States, where it makes over 70 percent of sales, under brands such as Kay Jewelers. Same-store sales in the U.S. sales were up 7 percent.

Same-store sales in the UK, where trading has been held back by a slowdown in consumer spending and high gold prices, were flat, Reuters reports. Total UK sales, however, were up 1.3 percent.

Gross margins in both the UK and United States were lower than the same period of 2005, but in line with expectations, Signet reportedly said.