The off-quarter earnings for Sotheby’s are out today. Because Q1 and Q3 are mostly time for gathering consignments (though Q1 does contain major sales in London and Hong Kong and the not irrelevant March sales of Contemporary art in New York,) these results tend to provide less directional information on the state of the market and Sotheby’s competitive position within it.
Nonetheless, Sotheby’s was able to show continue progress on its most important source of revenue, agency commissions. Here’s the relevant portion from this morning’s earnings press release (emphasis added):
For the three months ended March 31, 2017, Sotheby’s reported a net loss of ($11.3) million, or ($0.21) per diluted share, representing a $14.6 million (56%) or $0.20 per diluted share (49%) improvement when compared to the same period in the prior year. After excluding certain charges in the prior year period, Adjusted Net Loss* improved $9.6 million (46%) from ($21) million in 2016 to ($11.4) million in 2017 and Adjusted Diluted Loss Per Share* improved $0.12 (36%) from ($0.33) to ($0.21).
The improvement in first quarter Adjusted Net Loss* is principally due to an $18.4 million (23%) increase in Agency commissions and fees, reflecting continued improvement in Auction Commission Margin (from 15.4% to 18.0%) and a higher level of private sale commissions. The comparison of Adjusted Net Loss* to the prior year is also favorably influenced by a $2.6 million discrete tax benefit recorded in the first quarter of 2017 related to share-based payments vesting in the period. The overall improvement in first quarter Adjusted Net Loss* is partially offset by a $2 million (13%) decrease in revenues from SFS, reflecting a lower level of facility and collateral release fees, and a higher level of certain compensation and general and administrative expenses.