Jewellery giant Signet – the company behind H Samuel, Ernest Jones and Leslie Davis in the UK– suffered a 27.8 per cent fall in profits in the first half of 2008.

The company, which moves its main listing to the US next week, posted profits before exceptionals of US$78.7 million (£44.3 million) in the 26 weeks to August 2.

In the UK, Signet saw an increase in first-half like-for-like sales of 2.3 per cent, compared with a group-wide fall of more than 3.4 per cent. The like-for-like rise was aided in part by a roll-out of new-format Ernest Jones stores.

While the poor performance is down to “very challenging” conditions on both sides of the Atlantic, according to Signet group chief executive Terry Burman, the fall is less than some analysts had predicted for the group.

Burman said: “Appropriate adjustments in execution are being made to reflect the challenging economic conditions, with tight control of costs, inventory and gross merchandise margin, and investment in new space.

“As always, the results for the year will be significantly influenced by the group's performance during the important Christmas period.”

The group trades across 1,973 stores worldwide, including 559 stores in the UK.