Christies soars on art recovery: Auctioneer's most successful year since 1990 as market confidence increases

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The Independent Online
THE RECOVERY in the world art market helped boost profits at Christies International, the auctioneer, from pounds 6.7m to pounds 18.9m before tax in 1993. The underlying increase in profitability was 144 per cent after stripping out an exceptional gain of pounds 2.6m from the sale of a residential property.

In an upbeat assessment of prospects, Sir Anthony Tennant, chairman, said two very successful sales already this year augured well, including the sale of Barbra Streisand's collection of decorative and fine arts and memorabilia, which raised dollars 6.5m in New York.

The results marked the most successful year for Christies since 1990. A rise in the buyer's premium last March added pounds 12m to turnover. Sir Anthony said better conditions in the art market, with more confidence among buyers and more readiness of vendors to sell, helped increase auction sales 15 per cent to pounds 728m. The group also benefited from exchange rate movements to the tune of pounds 40m.

Sales rose sharply in the second half of the year - they were 22 per cent ahead of the first six months. Jewellery sales rose 39 per cent as a result of stronger demand worldwide and the fact that more vendors were prepared to sell at auction.

Sales were 14 per cent ahead in 19th and 20th Century pictures, but sales of old master paintings and Oriental art declined slightly. Furniture sales raced ahead 32 per cent. Sir Anthony said furniture had performed well aross the board but singled out the sale conducted for Hubert de Givenchy, the couturier, in Monaco at the end of last year.

He added that strong growth was also seen in British and American pictures, silver and decorative art and stamps and antiquities. Christies' South Kensington increased sales by 26 per cent.

Spink & Son, the coin dealer bought by Christies in April for pounds 7.1m, turned in operating profits of pounds 400,000, which Sir Anthony said were ahead of the target set for it at the time of the acquisition. 'Given its activities as a principal, Spink is being run entirely independently from Christies the auctioneers, which continues to operate as an agent. Its purchase was a significant step in widening our activities in the art market, as it also is a major international dealer in British pictures and oriental art.'

Christies continued its strategy of expansion into the Far East, holding sales in Taipei and Singapore for the first time. Sales in Hong Kong rose 31 per cent and a new office was opened in Shanghai, marking the group's first move into China.

Sir Anthony said the outlook for 1994 gave grounds for cautious optimism.

The dividend rises by a third to 2p on earnings per share that jumped from 2.21p to 6.82p. The shares rose 7p to 232p.

(Photograph omitted)