NEW YORK—In an earnings report released May 8, Sotheby’s stated that its first-quarter loss narrowed as revenues rose 30 percent in the first three months of 2006. The house said its loss from continuing operations was $3.9 million, or 7 cents a share—an improvement over its greater loss of $9.7 million, or 16 cents a share, in the first quarter of 2005.
The first quarter is typically not a strong earnings period for the auctioneer, with auction sales in the first three months historically representing only about 9-13 percent of annual sales, according to Sotheby’s report. Despite this, Sotheby’s reported, revenues reached $96 million, up $22 million from last year, primarily due to higher auction commission revenues and a 49 percent increase in private sale commissions.
Said Sotheby’s CEO William Ruprecht: “Numerous collecting categories across the globe are experiencing growth, with the most important contributors to the first quarter being London’s highest Impressionist and modern art and contemporary art sale in its history,” along with historic highs for Old Master paintings (ANL, 2/14/06) and “very successful Asian sales [ANL, 4/25/06] in New York.” Sotheby’s stock rose in the days before earnings were released and closed at a high around $34 on May 8. The stock dropped to about $30 a share in the course of the next few days. As ARTnewsletter went to press, the stock had closed at $28.34, down 30 cents.