Sotheby’s announced their earnings for the first quarter of 2019, traditionally a period where the company makes a loss. This year was no different. Indeed, the loss was slightly larger this year ($7.1m) than last ($6.5m).
The auction house’s CEO Tad Smith and CFO Mike Goss were quick to point out that much of the added loss was attributable to the calendar which moved a few of the successful Hong Kong sales into the second quarter where they were included in the first the year before.
Some big private sales took place in the first quarter of 2018 that could not be duplicated this year too.
On the plus side of the ledger, Sotheby’s earnings release reveals a 50% jump in revenue from the finance division. And the recent bump in the buyer’s premium has had a positive effect on the firm’s overall commission margin as CFO Goss explained on the earnings call:
One particular piece of promising news is that we’re encouraged by the first quarter’s 18.2% Auction Commission Margin, which was up 90 basis points versus the margin one year ago. For the trailing six-month period ended in March, our Auction Commission Margin improved from 17.1% a year ago to 17.4% this year. As importantly, by the time we get to June and we are looking back at the first half of 2019, we expect to see even more improvement on a year-over-year basis. You might recall, on our last call together, we expressed optimism that we might see a slight strengthening of our Auction Commission Margin in 2019 after experiencing pressure at mid-year in 2018, so the outlook remains positive on this front.