Sotheby’s lost $22.3m from January to March 2013, more than twice the amount for the same period in 2012.
However, this was chiefly because of new
investment and increased operating costs resulting from a rise in
the average value of lots sold, say the company.
In the first quarter, there was a 35%
increase in the total sale price of lots sold over $1m, where
auction commission margin experiences the most pressure.
The first quarter, generally a period of
slow activity, is traditionally loss-making, and with overall
revenues dropping by only 3% to $101.7m the performance appears
The restructuring of the buyer's premium in
mid March, aimed at improving yields, has yet to have a significant
impact on the bottom line.
"For over 98% of lots sold, this change
represents an increase of 2% or less in the final purchase price
and for all lots, a maximum 3.6% increase in the final purchase
price," said a spokesman.
Chief executive Bill Ruprecht talked about
the company "moving ahead with initiatives that expand our global
relevance and reach: redefining and personalising the client
experience at Sotheby's", possibly a reference to plans for further
development of private sales with the opening of a gallery behind
their Bond Street headquarters, in George Street, London.
"We have historically adapted to a changing
world. We are still an auction house, but today we are also much
more," added Mr Ruprecht.
Sotheby's are also placing even more emphasis now on web
development so "our clients can engage with us anywhere, at any
time on any device".