Sotheby’s Misses Estimates in “Bumpy” Second Quarter

Calendar shifts and currency issues weigh on the auction house's profits.

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Sotheby’s reported second-quarter earnings today that missed analysts’ estimates, due to what the company said was a shift in its sales schedule as well as unfavorable movements in foreign currency exchange rates. Following the earnings release, shares dropped by more than $3.50, or nearly eight percent, to below $38 per share inFriday morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

For the quarter ending on June 30, Sotheby’s reported net income of $67.6 million or 96 cents per share, which is down from $77.6 million, or $1.12 a share in the comparable period in 2014. Adjusted for one-time gains and costs, earnings were $1.04 per share, though this still fell short of analyst expectations of $1.25 per share based on five analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research.

Overall second-quarter revenue was $332 million, down from $335 million in the comparable 2014 quarter. Analysts had forecasted second-quarter revenue of $342 million.

In a conference call with analysts and investors this morning, Sotheby’s CEO Tad Smith said he wanted to “acknowledge the rather bumpy quarter which closed at the end of June.” Smith said it was “largely the results of a combination of sale timing issues as well as a canceled sale provision and the cost of a client authenticity claim, both of which were related to property sold in prior years.”

Sotheby’s noted that proceeds of the Summer evening sale of contemporary art in London, held July 1, which took in $205 million (£130.4 million) will be counted toward its third quarter earnings. Sotheby’s had shifted its London sales schedule to better work around the major Art Basel fair that takes place each year in Switzerland.

The second and fourth quarters are typically the most robust for auction houses as major series of Impressionist, modern and contemporary sales are held in New York (May) and London (June). The first and third quarters are typically quieter periods with lower sale volumes and profits.

Sotheby’s did not go into extensive detail about one-time charges in the second quarter that affected results but CFO Patrick McClymont said: “Also significantly contributing to the decline in…gross profit is a loss incurred on a painting acquired by Sotheby’s earlier in the year and sold at auction during the second quarter. This painting was acquired along with another painting that was sold at the same auction for an offsetting profit which will be recognized later in the year when payment is received and title passes to the buyer. The overall deal was profitable but we take the loss side now and the gain later.”

Another expense that affected profits was one related to an authenticity claim on a painting sold earlier. Noting an increase in second-quarter general and administrative expenses, McClymont said: “These increases are almost entirely due to a$6.9 million increase in other indirect expenses during the second quarter, primarily due to a significant charge related to an unexpected authenticity claim related to property sold several years ago.”

A spokesperson declined to elaborate on the individual work in question.

On a brighter note, Smith discussed an increase of $125 million to the company’s share repurchase authorization program, bringing the total to $250 million. “The Board has concluded that this share repurchase program strikes a balance between preserving capital for growth, downside risk protection, and returning available capital to shareholders,” according to the second-quarter press release.

Sotheby’s also reported an uptick in private sales in the second quarter, saying they improved 32 percent “due to an increase in the volume of high-value transactions completed during the quarter.”

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Sotheby’s stock performance in the past six months. Source:Yahoo Finance.

Shares of Sotheby’s, which had been trading as high as $46 in recent months, were lower in trading on the New York Stock Exchange today, around $38 each late this morning.

 

Related stories:

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Christie’s Poaches Rainmaker Guillaume Cerutti From Sotheby’s France

Sotheby’s Takes a Gamble With $1 Billion Credit Line

 

 

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