NEW YORK—On May 7, Sotheby’s reported a first-quarter loss of $34.5 million, or 53 cents a share, larger than the loss of $12.4 million, or 19 cents a share, of the first quarter the year before. The loss was due to a 71 percent decline in net auction sales, which Sotheby’s officials attributed to the downturn in the global economy and “its impact on the international art market that began in September 2008,” according to a statement.
Because of the seasonal nature of the art market, with major auctions taking place each May and November, in the second and fourth quarters, first-quarter auctions historically represent roughly only 9 to 14 percent of total annual sales, according to the Sotheby’s statement, which cautions investors to assess its business over six- and twelve-month periods.
In the past two months, the price of Sotheby’s stock, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange, has rebounded from a year-to-date low of just above $6 per share to $11 in recent weeks. The stock began moving higher in March, after hedge fund investor Steven A. Cohen announced he had taken a 5.9 percent ownership stake in the auction house (ANL, 3/31/09). As ARTnewsletter went to press, shares had closed at $10.38, up 2 cents.