Sotheby’s Misses First-Quarter Estimates as Revenue Drops by Almost a Third

The CEO remains "cautiously optimistic."

Photo: Sotheby's.

Auctioneer Sotheby’s has missed its revenue estimates for the first quarter of 2015, as revealed in an earnings report released this morning that showed a loss of 35 cents per share, or $22.3 million, compared with earnings of 11 cents a share or $7.4 million in the same period last year.

Revenue fell by almost a third, to $106.5 million, missing the roughly $125 million that analysts had expected. Even after accounting for one-time severance-agreement charges, including those related to a round of buyouts, Sotheby’s per-share loss was significantly larger than the analysts’ consensus forecast of 23 cents a share.

Sotheby's CEO Tad Smith.

Sotheby’s CEO Tad Smith.
Image: Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Though the first quarter of the year—which lacks the kind of firepower brought by major spring and autumn auctions—is typically not a robust one, CEO Tad Smith conceded in a call with investors this morning that “as we exited 2015, it was clear that the significant market growth experienced in 2014 and the first part of 2015 had slowed somewhat, and the impact can be felt in our results for the first quarter.”

Smith said the most significant indicators on the current state of the market will come in the next two weeks of auctions in New York and Geneva, noting “we are cautiously optimistic about these sales.”

After shuffling its sales schedule a few months ago, Sotheby’s will hold all major spring sales this week, starting with its evening sale of Impressionist and modern art tonight and its postwar and contemporary art sale Wednesday. Neither sale carries particularly high estimates, suggesting a difficulty in finding major works to bring to auction this season.

Sotheby's share price for the last 12 months. Image: Courtesy of Yahoo Finance.

Sotheby’s share price for the last 12 months. Courtesy of Yahoo Finance.

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