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Total auction sales were $942.9m, a nine per cent decrease on last year. Revenues for the period were $129.4m compared to $157.4m for the same period in 2000.

A variety of factors have been blamed for the downturn, including “employee retention costs” of about $8.7m for the first half of 2001, an expense exacerbated by key staff being poached by rivals. Up to $1.2m was spent on the ongoing anti-trust case, and the company suffered from the general increase in competition in the market and selectivity at sales, said chief executive William Ruprecht.

Sothebys.com recorded sales of $23.8m compared to $31m for the same quarter last year, but there was a positive note as running costs for the online business were down to $6.4m compared to the $13.9m spent for the quarter last year. And the company was keen to point out that the quarter sales for 2000 were significantly boosted by the $8.14m paid for a copy of the Declaration of Independence, the most expensive item ever auctioned online.

Sotheby’s will be looking to cut back online expenses further and hinted at job cuts in a closing statement that talked of controlling costs and improving profitability “through economies and further restructuring”.

SOTHEBY’S RESULTS

Second quarter (April 1-June 30)

Total revenues $129.4m ($157.4m*)

Net income $14.3m ($30m)

Net income excluding extraordinary
costs** $17.7m ($31.3m)

First half (January 1-June 30)

Total revenues $186.9m (212.1m)

Net income -$8.3m ($0.9m)

Net income excluding extraordinary costs** -$1.9m ($3.4m)

* Figures in brackets are results for the same period last year
** Extraordinary costs relate to employee retention and
anti-trust expenditure