Sotheby’s Share Price Just Hit a Record High. Why?

Investors are voicing approval for CEO Tad Smith's recent moves.

Sotheby's New York.
Image: Courtesy of Sothebys.com.

Shares of the auction house Sotheby’s, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange, are at an all-time high as the company continues to buy back shares and investors express confidence in the new initiatives implemented by CEO Tad Smith, who took the helm over two years ago.

Sotheby’s shares are up 45 percent for the year, reports Katya Kazakina of Bloomberg, outperforming the S&P 500 and marking the auction house’s highest level since the company went public in 1988.

In early January, shares were trading under $40 and closed yesterday (July 26) at just over $57.

Next week, Sotheby’s will report third-quarter earnings, typically a closely watched portion of the business calendar. The earnings will include the results from the major New York sales of Impressionist, Modern and contemporary art held in May—including Sotheby’s record $110.5 million sale of a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting.

Courtesy Yahoo Finance.

Courtesy Yahoo Finance.

Analysts told Bloomberg that the surge is due in part to increased confidence in the recovery of the high-end art market. Sotheby’s said sales for the first half of the year were up eight percent, to $2.54 billion.

Meanwhile, CEO Smith has been making high-profile acquisitions over the past two years, most notably Art Agency, Partners, the private advisory firm founded by former Christie’s contemporary head Amy Cappellazzo and art advisor Allan Schwartzman. Sotheby’s also acquired forensic analysis firm Orion Analytical and a data company that tracks auction sales known as Mei Moses.

Bloomberg quotes David Schick, a lead retail analyst at Consumer Edge Research LLC in Washington DC, who has tracked the company for many years and voiced approval for the moves. He says Sotheby’s “has gone from more old-fashioned to modern, including more information flow between business units and more rapid digital-media work.”


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