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Valentine's Day boosts profits at Signet

FIRST-QUARTER profits at Signet jumped pounds 6.7m to pounds 9.5m before tax, boosted by Americans buying Valentine's Day gifts, the jewellers group said yesterday.

But sales at Signet's 610 H Samuel and Ernest Jones outlets in the UK fell pounds 1m to pounds 68.2m and losses deepened from pounds 1m in the first quarter last year to pounds 2.6m.

The group, which generates most of its business in the US, saw off a break-up attempt earlier this year from the US fund manager Resurgence Asset Management, which wanted a partial sale of the group's US business, claiming the value of the US arm was not reflected in Signet's share price because of difficult UK trading.

Yesterday Signet said this had not been taken forward and it has no plans to sell its US business.

The group's pre-tax profit for the 13 weeks to 1 May was pounds 9.5m, up from pounds 2.8m for the same period the previous year, on sales of pounds 224m.

The US accounted for pounds 156.4m of group sales - up 21 per cent on the previous year.

Shares in Signet closed up 2p at 53.5p.