Sotheby's shares fell 9 percent based on lower auction revenues and fears about the European sovereign debt crisis.
Uncertainty over the economic impact on Europe with Greece's biggest-ever debt restructuring spooked sellers, says Sotheby's Chief Financial Officer William Sheridan who indicated that some consignors were holding back for now.
Following 2007, Sotheby's had its second best year ever in 2011 with a reported profit of $171.4 million.
Driving the year was a $57.5 million, or 7%, increase in revenues attributable to growth in both auction and private sale commission revenues. Offsetting the growth in revenues was a higher level of operating expenses.
Bill Ruprecht, Sotheby's President and Chief Executive Officer, stated: “Consolidated sales in 2011 were an excellent $5.8 billion, as healthy bidding continued around the world for great works of art. Private sales, an increasingly important part of Sotheby’s business, totaled a record $814.6 million, a 65% increase. We ended the year with a very strong balance sheet and we are continuing to invest in our business, including bolstering our information technology and online offerings in order to enhance our service to clients."
“We are also further expanding our high-growth business in China as well as other “new” markets,” said Mr. Ruprecht. “Impressively, and for the first time ever, Sotheby’s consolidated sales in Asia reached $1 billion in 2011."
On the horizon, Sotheby's will offer some big-ticket lots this May, including Roy Lichtenstein's Sleeping Girl (estimate: $30-40 million) and Edvard Munch's The Scream, one of four versions of the iconic work and the last held privately, estimated to exceed $80 million.