Going to the highest bidder: Shares in Sotheby's soar as auction house reports income boost for second quarter

Hayley Kirton
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Andy Warhol's 'Double Elvis' Auctioned At Sotheby's
Shares are currently trading up 15 per cent (Source: Getty)

The price is clearly right for Sotheby's investors, as the auction house's share price rocketed after it released its second-quarter results today.

Sotheby's revealed net income of $89m (£68.3m), up 31.7 per cent from $67.6m a year ago, for the three months ending in June, with an annual contemporary art sales in London, which fell in the third quarter for 2015 but in the second for 2016, helping to drive up the bottom line.

The company also reported an increase in diluted earnings per share to $1.52, up 58.3 per cent from $0.96.

Shares leapt on the news, and are currently trading up 15.8 per cent at $37.38.

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However, the firm painted a slightly bleaker picture when it came to the wider market, reporting a 16 per cent decrease in net auction sales.

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The figures were also not so fantastic for the first six months of the year, with reported net income dropping to $63.1m, down 13.3 per cent from $72.8m in 2015.

"While we would certainly prefer to see a stronger art market, we are pleased with the progress we have been making on our strategic initiatives and the beneficial changes to our team and organisation," said Tad Smith, Sotheby's president and chief executive. "When the art market improves — and it certainly will — our company is poised to do very well for shareholders."

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Mike Goss, chief financial officer, tried to warn investors not to be overly optimistic:

Given the pronounced seasonality of the art auction market, we believe investors should focus on six month results versus prior periods, rather than merely a single quarter.

The comparison of quarterly results can be skewed by changes in the timing of when auctions occur, such as the summer contemporary sales in London.

Looking at the first six months of this year, investors will have a realistic view of the current market, but they will also see our improved auction commission margins, meaningful cost control, and the impact of our ongoing share repurchase program.