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New York auction season report: Strong bidding, powerful prices

Sotheby’s cuts losses, sells London Institute

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Sotheby’s has reduced its losses despite a decrease in revenues for the first nine months of this year. The firm’s quarterly results, filed in late November, showed a loss of $27.4 million, down from the loss of $43 million it made in the same period in 2002. Revenues were down: in the first nine months of this year, the firm reported sales of $208.9 million, compared to $220.8 million in 2002, a shortfall the firm blamed on “unfavourable conditions for property gathering during the lead-up to the war in Iraq.” In addition, this year it did not have the fillip provided by Rubens’ “Massacre of the Innocents”, which in July 2002 made $76.7 million. However the buoyant November sales, which saw Impressionist, modern and contemporary art sales rack up over $220 million, led CEO Bill Ruprecht to say that the firm had confidence in a “promising finish to 2003. The rebound in the art market...is very encouraging and our outlook for the fourth quarter is extremely positive.” Meanwhile, in a further move to cut costs and focus on its core business, Sotheby’s has sold its London-based Institute to an American information and education services firm, Cambridge Information Group (see page 47).

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