Philip Boroff knows his way around an SEC filing. He went through Sotheby’s recent earnings to come up with these interesting numbers on the short-term drop in Sotheby’s private sales business which CEO Ruprecht reminds us is a “chunky” business. The most interesting piece of news isn’t the big drop itself, nearly half the value of the previous period, but the fact that transactions increased but were obviously at a much lower value:
Long a focus of company executives, private sales tumbled 48 percent in the first half of the year, according to an August 8 Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The value of private transactions, in which Sotheby’s discretely brokers art and other collectibles to one prospective purchaser at a time, dived to $294 million in the first half of 2014 from $561 million a year earlier. It was the lowest private sales total since 2010. The drop contributed to a 15 percent decline in quarterly earnings and an 8 percent drop in Sotheby’s stock on Friday.
In the first half of this year, private sales accounted for 8 percent of Sotheby’s overall sales. Private sales commissions for 2014′s first half were $30 million, down by a quarter from a year earlier.
Besides accentuating the positive, Sotheby’s hasn’t offered many explanations about the setback. In an August 8 press release summarizing its results for the year’s first half, it highlighted a 41 percent jump in the number of private transactions while ignoring the dollar value slump.