This morning, during a conference call for investors and journalists, Sotheby’s reported net income of $85.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2018, a 12 percent increase over the $76.7 million it earned during the same period in 2017. Per-share earnings were also up some 20 percent, from $1.43 to $1.72.
Stock buyers rewarded the news, with shares of the auction house rising more than 8 percent in early trading.
Sotheby’s trumpeted the increase in its private-sales business in 2018, saying that it had totaled $1.02 billion in that segment, a jump of 37 percent over 2017. Online sales grew 24 percent, totaling $220.4 million. Overall, the company saw a 16 percent increase in overall consolidated sales in 2018 versus 2017.
“I am pleased to report that in 2018 we fulfilled our objective to substantially improve upon last year’s good results,” the auction house’s CEO, Tad Smith, said in a statement distributed before the call.
Some highlights of 2018 for the house included leading the Asian market for the third year running, with sales of an estimated $1 billion; the sale of the highest price for any painting sold at auction in Europe, Pablo Picasso’s portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter for $69.2 million; and the setting of new auction records for artists such as Kerry James Marshall, John Chamberlain, and Jenny Saville.
The auction house expanded as well, holding inaugural auctions in Mumbai and Dubai. In May, the auction house plans to present a redesign of its New York headquarters.
Revenue was up on the quarter, to $375.1 million versus $338.2 million in Q4 of 2017. “Our revenue growth is a reflection of both higher auction activity and higher private sales commissions,” CFO Mike Goss said on the call.
“We have the potential to deliver even better results in 2019 by improving technology and processes for clients, though, as always, market conditions will be a factor,” Smith said in his statement.