Marking Sotheby’s 275th anniversary, the auction house recently reported its final numbers for 2018. On February 28th, Sotheby’s, a publicly traded company, posted a press release with their fourth quarter earnings and overall numbers for 2018.
For 2018, Sotheby’s net income came in right at $108.6 million, about $10 million below 2017’s income of $118.8 million. 2018 was still far better than 2016, which only saw a net income of $74.1 million. An improvement in adjusted operating income of 18% brought 2018’s total to $198.1 million for the auction house.
Private sales, however, were at a five-year high jumping up by 37% resulting in $1.02 billion – nearly doubling since 2016 – and consolidated sales increased by 16% accounting for $6.4 billion over the course of the year. Aggregate auction sales also saw a 15% increase from the previous year reaching $5.3 billion, $1 billion of which was from Hong Kong setting a record in aggregated auction sales in Sotheby’s 45-year history in Asia. Meanwhile, online sales totalled $220.4 million, up 24% from 2017. Other notable sale highlights came in the records set by contemporary artists including Kerry James Marshall (whose Past Times sold for $21.2 million) and Jenny Saville (Propped sold for £9.5 million equating to about $12.4 million). Additionally, the sale of artworks by Old Masters increased by 30% including the sale of a rare Rembrandt oil sketch that garnered £9.5 million ($12.1 million).
Fourth quarter highlights included net income increase of 12% over the same quarter the previous year coming in at $85.7 million for 2018.
Per-share stock value was slightly down in 2018 dropping from $2.20 per share the previous year to $2.09. Since 2016, however, Sotheby’s reported that it has repurchased around 20.6 million of its publicly owned shares for $689.1 million (about $33.49 per share).
Sotheby’s 2018 sales came in just behind Christie’s who reported total sales of $7 billion in early February. However, since Christie’s is a privately-owned auction house, they do not have to report their profits in the same way that Sotheby’s is required to. However, Sotheby’s growth and steady forward motion in 2018 was a large improvement over two years ago.
‘As a result of our entire team’s efforts and the continued trust placed in Sotheby’s by our clients, I am pleased to report that in 2018 we fulfilled our objective to substantially improve upon last year’s good results,’ said Sotheby’s CEO Tad Smith in the press release. He continued: ‘we have the potential to deliver even better results in 2019 by improving technology and processes for clients, though, as always, market conditions will be a factor.’