Just before its anniversary, Sotheby’s releases its numbers for 2018

Just before its anniversary, Sotheby’s releases its numbers for 2018
Sotheby's New York. Courtesy Flickr Commons.

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.’