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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 September 2006, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Ratner 'to bid 350m for Signet'
Gerald Ratner
Gerald Ratner has been working to rebuild his business and reputation
Gerald Ratner, the businessman who called his products "crap" in the early 1990s, is set to table a bid of 350m for the UK's largest jeweller, Signet.

Mr Ratner, who is backed by a group of banks and private equity firms, had an earlier 200m offer turned down. The bid is only for Signet's UK operations.

Shareholders have indicated that they would accept the sweetened deal, sources close to the deal told the BBC.

Signet dismissed speculation, saying that its UK business was not for sale.

"The company has not received any communication regarding a possible sale," a Signet spokeswoman said.

"The company said at the time of the interim results in August that the UK arm is not up for sale," she added.

Signet has 591 UK shops, where it owns the H Samuel and Ernest Jones chains. The firm also has more than 1,220 stores in the US.

Bouncing back

Signet jewellery shop
Signet's UK operations include the H Samuel and Ernest Jones chains

Mr Ratner's group is expected to send a letter outlining the improved bid to Signet's board of directors later this week.

Signet's chief executive Terry Burman has previously said that Signet's UK operations were not for sale, though the Mail on Sunday said that the improved offer may force him to consider splitting up the company.

Signet used to be called Ratners until the infamous comments hammered the business and led to Mr Ratner leaving the business 18 months after his gaffe.

Since then, Mr Ratner has rebuilt his businesses and is now joint owner of an internet company called Geraldonline.

Geraldonline is the company through which Mr Ratner is bidding for Signet, and he plans to merge the two business should the deal be accepted.

Earlier this year there were rumours that a number of private equity firms were lining up billion-dollar bids for the whole of Signet.

And in June, Signet admitted it that had held merger talks with US firm Zale Corporation, but the discussions came to nothing.

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