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Friday, November 5, 2010

Sotheby’s Revenues Up 63%, Net Loss Improves by 67%

A 1917 painting by Amedeo Modigliani titled “Nude Seated on a Divan” sold for $68.96 million at the Nov. 2 Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale at Sotheby’s New York, setting a new a record for the artist’s work. The auction took in a total of $263.7 million.

Sotheby’s on Thursday reported a 63 percent year-over-year increase in revenues to $73.1 million for the third quarter, at least partially due to a $14.1 million, or 48 percent, growth in auction commission revenues from strong worldwide sales. Most notable was the July London Old Master Paintings sale, which brought 85 percent higher results than the prior year. Another contributing factor was a $13.2 million increase in dealer revenues for the period due to a higher level of dealer activity.

Net loss for the third quarter of 2010 is $19.4 million, compared to $57.8 million in the prior period, a 67 percent improvement. The auction house noted that auction sales in the third quarter have historically represented approximately 7 to 10 percent of annual sales, and the third quarter has historically been a loss period.

The auction house did not separate revenues from jewelry sales in its report.

Sotheby’s margin fell from 22.7 percent to 20.2 percent in the third quarter, largely attributable to a greater number of high valued items that were sold in the period, Sotheby’s said. For items of more than $1 million, the buyer’s premium rate decreases from 20 percent to 12 percent.

Operating loss for the period was $29.1 million, a $9.1 million, or 24 percent, improvement from the prior period. The growth in revenues that led to this improvement was partially offset by a $19 million, or 23 percent, increase in expenses in the quarter, ended September 30. A substantial portion of this increase ($14 million) was due to higher dealer costs, which was offset by the increase in dealer revenues. Total expenses, excluding dealer cost of sales, increased 6 percent to $5 million.

“Outstanding auctions in all geographic regions and across nearly all collecting categories have contributed to these excellent results,” said Bill Ruprecht, Sotheby’s president and CEO. “The momentum is strong in the fourth quarter. Among the many successful sales we have had thus far, our Hong Kong series of sales last month was the unquestioned highlight. The series brought $396.4 million, our best total ever and was 55 percent above the previous record series that took place in the spring of this year. Whether in Asia, North America or Europe, there is confidence in the art market as we approach the conclusion of this remarkable year.”

“Confidence was also clearly in evidence this week with our Impressionist and Modern Art sales in New York. Our sales totaled $263.7 million, up from both our May 2010 and November 2009 sales totals,” Ruprecht continued. “Modigliani’s masterpiece, which set a new record at auction when it sold above the pre-sale estimate for $69 million, was Sotheby’s highest price in New York for a work in this category since May 2006.”

On November 30, 20 pieces from the auction of the “Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor,” held at Sotheby’s in 1987, will be offered. The jewelry includes examples of Cartier in collaboration with the Windsors as well as pieces whose inscriptions tell their love story. The combined pre-sale estimate is from $4.5 million to $6.7 million.

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