Profits jump at Christies despite lean year for big sales

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Christies International, the auctioneer and art specialist, expects to start selling several big single-owner collections after a lean year for large sales in 1996. Lord Hindlip (pictured above left), the company's chairman, who yesterday announced a 57 per cent surge to pounds 33.9m in taxable profits and a 70 per cent boost to 4.75p in the dividend payout for last year, said the outlook for first-half sales was encouraging.

"Several collections have already been consigned for sale, including a collection of Impressionist pictures from the John Langeloth Loeb and Frances Langeloth Loeb collection, and Old Master, 19th century and Modern works from the collection of the late Lore and Rudolf Heinemann."

The profit jump in 1996 was achieved despite auction sales growth of only 9 per cent to pounds 1.016bn. Lord Hindlip said: "The final result is especially pleasing because there were fewer single-owner collections available for sale in comparison with previous years."

Within the sales rise was a 31 per cent increase from Asia-Pacific to a record $100m (pounds 63m). Auction revenues grew faster than sales, up by 12.5 per cent, helped by a new commission structure introduced in late 1995.

Auction costs rose by 6.4 per cent, and the company said this should be kept in check by more efficient catalogue production processes. The company said it was pressing on with plans to start up as one of the first foreign-owned auction houses in France once new legislation and regulations had been completed.

Langeloth Loeb collection, page 3 Photograph: Reuter