Sotheby’s Improves Losses, Posts Record February Sales

Sothebys (NYSE:BID) released the results from its most recently completed quarter this morning, posting net losses of 9 cents per share. Operating income was $4.1 million, while loss before taxes was $5.7 million, an improvement of $26 million year over year. Consolidated sales rose 32%, climbing to $1 billion for the quarter.

Analysts had been expecting losses of 17 cents per share on $121.85 million in revenue.

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Breaking down Sotheby’s earnings

The auction firm said the global art market remained strong, and it saw record sales in February in London. Net auction sales increased 40%, while commission revenues increased by 33%. Sothebys (NYSE:BID) reported a 31% increase in agency revenues and a decline in auction commission margin to 14.3%, mostly due to some high value consignments in the sale of the London Impressionist pieces.

Total expenses increased 24%, climbing to $152.7 million because of an increase in cost of principal revenues and $5.7 million in special charges from the proxy contest with Dan Loeb’s Third Point. Excluding those items, adjusted expenses were flat at $122.5 million.

Loeb has urged investors to vote for his slate of board nominees for Sothebys (NYSE:BID). The activist investor has gone back and forth with the auction firm for some time now, and the barbs have been getting more and more personal as the war wages on.

Sotheby’s looks ahead

Sothebys (NYSE:BID) said tonight it will begin its Impressionist and Modern Art sales, which have an estimate of $264 million to $383 million pre-sale. Next week, the auction company hosts a Contemporary Art sale, which carries an estimate of between $410 million and $578 million pre-sale. Sotheby’s will also spend 18 months selling The Sender Collection, which it believes will bring in at least $70 million. Next week, the company will hold its Magnificent Jewels sale, which it estimates to be worth between $93 million and $142 million presale.

“What we’re seeing is a market that continues to deliver. In the coming weeks we have a number of exciting and important works on offer in our salesrooms, including our Contemporary Art sales in New York, which carry their highest pre-sale total estimates in Sotheby’s history,” said Sothebys (NYSE:BID) Chairman, President and CEO Bill Ruprecht in a statement.