King of bling Gerald Ratner was yesterday said to be planning a return to the high street with a #200 million bid for the owner of H Samuel and Ernest Jones.

Reports said Mr Ratner is expected to put in the offer for the UK arm of Signet - which was once called Ratners and was under his control - in the next few weeks.

The supposed interest comes after private equity groups Apax Partners and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) pulled out of the running.

Earlier this month, Apax and KKR said they were mulling a #2.3 billion bid for the whole Signet group, which has 591 shops in the UK as well as 1,221 in the United States. But in a joint statement, the groups said: "Apax and KKR announce they have no current intention of approaching the board of Signet to make an offer for the company."

The withdrawal came amid reports that Apax and KKR faced stiff opposition to a takeover from shareholders.

Mr Ratner, aged 56, was said to be interested in the whole UK arm of the business after initially expressing interest in H Samuel.

He said: "We are looking at Ernest Jones as well as H Samuel. It would be ridiculous to break them up.

"I think I have more chance of being successful if I bid for both as I don't think any vendor would want to split them."