Signet chief executive Mike Barnes insists the jewellery giant will continue to invest in the UK, despite reports it is mulling a sale of the UK business, which includes H Samuel and Ernest Jones.

Barnes said: “We will continue to make investments [in the UK]. We are moving from certain sites and trialling merchandise… we see an opportunity there.”

The Signet boss refused to comment on sale speculation as he unveiled sluggish UK like-for-likes in its first quarter. It is understood to be sounding out private equity firms about offloading its UK arm.

Its financial adviser Lazard is thought to be ascertaining what price its H Samuel, Ernest Jones and Leslie Davis chains might fetch.

The retailer’s UK losses narrowed year on year from $1.2m (£728,000) to $200,000 (£121,000) and like-for-likes edged up just 0.2% in the 13 weeks to April 30.

In contrast, its US like-for-likes jumped 12.5%.

Gross margin declined 30 basis points in the UK, which the jeweller said was due to escalating commodity costs, higher VAT and currency exchanges losing the benefits achieved last year.

Barnes said: “Our performance was led by our US division, with the UK division continuing to operate well in a challenging economy.”

H Samuel was its top performing UK fascia, with like-for-likes up 2.7% and total sales at $79.5m (£48.3m). Like-for-likes decreased 2.4% at its Ernest Jones and Leslie Davis fascias.

The jeweller said it had seen increasing momentum in sales as the quarter progressed. In the first half of the period like-for-likes were down 4% but increased to plus 5% in the second half.

The retailer said the momentum had continued into the first two weeks of its second quarter.

Signet, which has more than 80% of its sales originating in the US, said group-wide like-for-likes were up by 10.2%. Signet has 1,852 shops, 1,314 of which are in the US.

In it last financial year ending January 29, Signet UK like-for-likes dropped 1.4%.