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Sotheby’s Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year Results; Full Year Revenues Increase 60%

March 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Art Market

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s today announced results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2010.

2010 brought the best financial results for Sotheby’s in its 267-year history, apart from 2007. Consolidated Sales* were $2.0 billion in the fourth quarter and $4.8 billion in the year, an increase of 57% and 74%, respectively. For the three and twelve months ended December 31, 2010, total revenues were $318.0 million and $774.3 million, respectively, an increase of 46% and 60%, when compared to the same periods in the prior year. This is almost entirely due to an increase in auction commission revenues stemming from strong sales around the world during the periods. In 2010, there was a 105% increase in the number of works sold over $1 million, the point at which the buyer’s premium rate decreases from 20% to 12%. As a result, offsetting the increase in auction commission revenues is a decline in auction commission margin from 20.4% to 18.0% in the fourth quarter and from 20.7% to 18.3% in the full year, largely attributable to this change in sales mix towards higher valued items in both periods.

A vase entitled Falangcai Vase With Golden Pheasants and a Poetic Colophon 580x388 Sothebys Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year Results; Full Year Revenues Increase 60%
A vase entitled “Falangcai Vase With Golden Pheasants and a Poetic Colophon” from Chinese Qing Dynasty period is displayed at Sotheby’s auction media preview of Imperial Chinese Porcelain collections in Hong Kong, China. The vase is expected to fetch around US$23 million in the April 7 auction in Hong Kong. AP Photo/Kin Cheung.

Operating income for the fourth quarter of 2010 was $155.5 million, a $56.6 million, or 57%, growth from the prior period. For the full year, operating income was $274.0 million, a $220.9 million, or 416% increase from the prior year. These increases are largely due to the aforementioned growth in revenues and are offset by higher incentive compensation costs stemming from the strong results of the periods as well as an increase in direct costs of services that is consistent with the level and composition of our auction offerings during these periods. Net income for the fourth quarter was up 31% on prior year to $96.2 million, or $1.38 per diluted share and $161.0 million, or $2.34 per diluted share for the full year (compared to net income of $73.6 million, or $1.09 per share in the fourth quarter of 2009 and a net loss of ($6.5) million, or ($0.10) per share for the full year of 2009).

“The net income of $161.0 million that we have been able to deliver in 2010 is our best yearly result ever, apart from 2007. It is a remarkable accomplishment,” said Bill Ruprecht, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sotheby’s. “The recovery of the global art market which was aided in part by the increased buying activity of clients from new markets certainly contributed to these results, as did the difficult decisions we had to make beginning in the autumn of 2008 – the headcount reduction, tightening of our cost structure and steadfast focus on auction commission margins – which have paid off considerably and translated to an EBITDA margin** of 37.2% which is 200 basis points higher than in 2007. The leverage in our business model is clear and consistent, and reflects our focused approach to cost discipline and margin management in 2010.

“Our success was achieved with a much lower risk profile than in the previous peak years of 2006 and 2007, as we have been highly selective in our use of auction guarantees and only issued such guarantees in tandem with risk sharing arrangements that very significantly reduced our financial exposure,” continued Mr. Ruprecht.

A solid balance sheet showed cash at the end of 2010 of $483.7 million. Thanks to recent excellent results and liquidity, the Company was able to buy back $48.3 million of its 7.75% Senior Notes in the fourth quarter and further de-leverage our balance sheet. This debt extinguishment incurred a charge of $6.3 million in the fourth quarter but will, however, reduce future annual interest expense by approximately $3.7 million in each of the next three years, 2011 through 2014, and by approximately $1.8 million in 2015. In addition, Sotheby’s was upgraded by both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s during the year; and was able to extend out the maturity of its bank revolving credit facility by two years to September 2014. As 2011 begins, liquidity is strong.

“The positive momentum continues in 2011,” added Mr. Ruprecht. “Our recently concluded London sales of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art, including the exceptional single owner sale, Looking Closely: A Private Collection brought an outstanding combined total of $390.8 million. This total even exceeds the prior year total of $366.7 million which had included the sale of the then-record breaking Giacometti sculpture which sold for $104.3 million. And we have just announced the sale of a selection of magnificent Imperial Porcelain from the Meiyintang Collection, one of the greatest private collections of Imperial Chinese Porcelain in the world. Estimated at between $91-137 million, the sale in Hong Kong on April 7th is likely to be of historic importance and brings the estimate for the total April Hong Kong series to in excess of $300 million.

“Overall, aggregate auction sales through the first two months of 2011 solidly improved from the first two months of 2010. We hope that 2011 will be another strong year for Sotheby’s and for the art market,” concluded Mr. Ruprecht.

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