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The figures showed a net loss of $25.9m (£18.76m) on revenues of $106.5 (£77m) compared to a profit of $5.1m (then £3.3m) on $155.7m (£1.01m) revenues in the first quarter of 2015.

Shares in the auctioneering giant have dipped 40% over the year. However, the chief financial officer Mike Goss revealed last Monday: “We’ve recently been advised by an outside investor that they may make purchases of our stock to bring their holdings to at least 10% of the shares outstanding.”

US TV network CNBC reported that the company, with a market cap of around $1.6bn (£1.16bn), “could be seen as trophy asset for many of the world’s art-collecting billionaires”.

Shares rose 6% on the speculation.