Sotheby's income dives 60%

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NET INCOME at Sotheby's Holdings, the world's largest auctioneer, has plummeted by 60 per cent to just dollars 4m ( pounds 2.9m) on revenues of dollars 225m, up from dollars 222.4m. Income from principal auction activities toppled from dollars 15.9m to dollars 1.8m in the year to 31 December.

The cost of opening three international sales centres and installing new software in London, as well as adverse foreign currency movements, added dollars 7m to auction operating costs. There was a further dollars 4.9m charge for redundancy costs and restructuring.

'Despite a difficult economic and art market environment, there were some positive signs in worldwide operations,' said Michael Anslie, president and group chief executive.

Auction sales increased to dollars 1.132bn from dollars 1.104bn.

'Signs of improvement were evident this autumn in several of our sales . . . most notably we saw greater stability in the impressionist and modern markets,' Mr Anslie said.' As another indication of an improving market, Sotheby's sold 770 works for more than dollars 1m, compared with 551 works in 1991.'

He said an improvement in sales since the year end, the increased buyers' premium implemented in November and continued cost controls would strengthen profitability in 1993.

Earnings per share were dollars 0.07, or 4p a share. Sotheby's is paying a fourth-quarter dividend of dollars 0.15. The full dividend is dollars 0.60. The shares closed unchanged at 900p.