Sotheby’s Has $2.4 Million Profit as Art Market Rebounds

Sotheby’s (BID), which aims to sell a Jeff Koons sculpture tomorrow of the Pink Panther embracing a topless blonde for $30 million, reported a first-quarter profit.

The New York auctioneer earned $2.4 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with a loss of $2.2 million, or 3 cents, a year earlier, it said in a statement. Revenue increased 17 percent to $119.6 million.

The earnings were in line with estimates. Five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg projected profit of 3.6 cents a share. They had estimated revenue of $119 million.

“This is one of our best first quarters on record,” Chief Executive William Ruprecht said today in an e-mailed statement.

Auction sales increased 23 percent, offset in part by a 16 percent increase in operating expenses.

Sotheby’s typically posts a small loss or profit in the first and third quarters. Its biggest auctions are held in the second and fourth quarters. It sells contemporary art tomorrow night in New York, with Koons’s “Pink Panther” estimated for $20 million to $30 million. Christie’s, which is privately held, holds its contemporary sale Wednesday night.

Sotheby’s shares are up about 40 percent in the past 12 months as the auction market has rebounded. Sotheby’s shares rose 86 cents to $46.54 today in New York Stock Exchange trading.

At year-end, Sotheby’s said it accounted for 49 percent of the auction sales of fine art and decorative art, jewelry and collectibles between the two major auction houses, up from 44 percent in 2009. Its annual sales almost doubled to $4.3 billion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Philip Boroff in New York at pboroff@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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