Healthy Impressionist and Contemporary sales boost Sotheby’s results

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Net auction sales have increased by 40% from the prior year to approximately $730 million according to Sotheby’s preliminary, unaudited financial results for the first quarter ended March 31 2014.

This substantial improvement is primarily due to a $113 million, or 34%, increase in sales of Impressionist art and Contemporary art over the prior year. Notably, Sotheby’s record setting Impressionist Art sales in London achieved the highest-ever total for any sales series held anywhere in London.

Reflecting this sales growth, Sotheby’s expects to report that pre-tax loss for the first quarter improved by 81% to approximately ($6) million, as compared to Sotheby’s pre-tax loss of ($32) million in the first quarter of 2013.

Sotheby’s notes that due to the seasonal nature of the art auction market, first quarter net auction sales have historically represented only a small proportion of annual net auction sales, resulting in a net loss for the period. As a result, first quarter results are typically not indicative of expected full-year results.

“Sotheby’s growth in sales and improved financial performance demonstrate that we are executing on our strategic plan and are well positioned to further build on the substantial momentum and record results we achieved in 2013,” said chairman, president and chief executive officer Bill Ruprecht. “We remain focused on driving value for shareholders and clients alike and working to capitalize on Sotheby’s position as the leading global brand providing access to exquisite art, art-related financing, arts education, real estate and retail wine and jewelry.”

Sotheby’s expects to announce final first quarter 2014 results on or around May 7.