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Sotheby’s First-Quarter Earnings Up From Year-Ago Levels

The continued strength of the international art market fueled a considerable improvement in Sotheby’s latest financial results.

NEW YORK—The continued strength of the international art market fueled a considerable improvement in Sotheby’s latest financial results.

On May 9, the house posted a first-quarter net income of $2.4 million, or three cents a share, compared with a net loss of $2.2 million or three cents a share in the first quarter of 2010. Because of the seasonal nature of the auction business (major sales take place in the second and fourth quarter each year), the first quarter of the calendar year is typically a loss period for the auctioneer.

Sotheby’s executives said the improvement is due principally to higher auction commission revenues as a result of a 23 percent increase in net auction sales. Sotheby’s said in the first quarter there was “an increase in works of art sold in the upper price bands including a 63 percent increase in the number of works sold for over $1 million.”

“This is one of our best first quarters on record,” says President and CEO Bill Ruprecht. “It is all the more impressive given the outstanding first quarter of 2010, which included one work by [Alberto] Giacometti which sold for an unprecedented $104.3 million.”

Ruprecht goes on to say that, for the year to date, sales are up 31 percent, “continuing the positive momentum into the second quarter,” with Hong Kong sales accounting for a major part of those sales.

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