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Sotheby’s review strategy to placate shareholders

20 September 2013Written by Ivan Macquisten

Sotheby’s have announced that they are reviewing their financial strategy in a bid to create the optimum balance between future investment in the company and shareholder return.

The announcement of the review comes less than two weeks after Wall Street hedge fund billionaire Daniel Loeb's firm Third Point announced it had acquired a 5.7% stake in the firm and indicated that he would be putting pressure on Sotheby's board to create better shareholder value.

Sotheby's chief executive Bill Ruprecht, who said the board would present the results to investors early next year, highlighted recent achievements in this sphere, such as raising buyer's premium thresholds, which had yielded an additional $20m in the second quarter of 2013, and a saving of $5m as a result of restructuring long-term debt.

He also stressed the importance of strong liquidity in the battle to stay competitive, particularly with respect to offering loans and auction guarantees, adding that the performance of the share price over the past decade illustrated the prudence of the company's governance over the period.

Shareholder Returns

Mr Loeb, who said he would be entering into talks with Sotheby's board about the future of the company, is thought to have been joined by fellow investors Nelson Petz and Marcato Capital Management in pressing the company for more of a return for shareholders.

Sotheby's recent statement accompanying their first-half results announced that they would be prepared to consider selling both their New York and London headquarters.

The Wall Street Journal reported that they had actually put their NY HQ on the market, although there was no official announcement from Sotheby's to that effect as ATG went to press.

"Any transaction has to deliver substantial post-mortgage value, while any sale must afford Sotheby's funds for attractive purpose-built new space, which meets the company's unique facility requirements," they stated.

 

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