Auctionata Results and Global Online Trade Volumes

Berlin-based Auctionata published its 2014 results that provided for a larger online auction trade volume than originally anticipated. The firm has generated $41 million in gross merchandise value sold, representing a 148% increase in dollar terms to 2013. See complete Auctionata 2014 disclosure.

These results make Auctionata the world’s largest online art trading platform followed by Paddle8, Christie’s and AG.

Christie’s online-only sales were $35.1 million in 2014, thus representing a 60% growth compared to 2013 (for more of Christie’s results go here).

While Paddle8 and AG have not yet published their results, Skate’s runs a close tally of their online auctions and expects Paddle8 to report GMV of about $37-40 million for 2014, while is unlikely to exceed $30m GMV for 2014 (the firm will publish its 2014 results only towards the end of March).

According to the Spring Edition of Skate’s Art E-Commerce and Media Report to be released on March 15, the top four online art trading platforms generated $144 million in gross merchandise volume in 2014, on average doubling the volume of online trade compared to 2013.


Sotheby’s Expands to Cars but Remains Targeted by Activist Shareholders

Sotheby’s made its first acquisition since years buying a 25% stake in the vintage cars auctioneer RM Auctions, and also secured a clear path to control over RM following the initial stage of the partnership. Sotheby’s made no clear guidance so far about the size of contribution to its topline that this acquisition could eventually make, if and when the ownership interest in RM is increased and the investment is consolidated, but on the surface this seems to be the right move.

The market for collectible cars appears to be strong. It is already one of the most successful auction categories for Bonhams, and online rivals like Auctionata also targeted this space attracted by the lack of a branded, global leader in collectible cars auction sales. Sotheby’s move strategically makes a lot of sense.

This however comes too little and too late for some of Sotheby’s shareholders that continue to demand further management changes in the firm and object to the company’s recent decision to suspend dividend payments (see Skate’s coverage). One of Sotheby’s largest shareholders, Marcato asset management firm led by its managing partner Mr. McGuire that control 9.53% of Sotheby’s, published a strongly worded letter demanding CFO removal and return of capital to shareholders (see details on Marcato investment size in Sotheby’s). This did send a clear message to Sotheby’s Board that removal of Mr. Ruprecht is not good enough for some of the large shareholders and puts Sotheby’s board under enormous pressure to announce the new CEO soonest.


New Directors and Shareholders in Art Industry Space

As Skate’s has been reporting since the start of the year, the institutional capital continues to flow into global art industry stocks. Among last week disclosures are significant investments by Fidelity Management & Research into Shutterstock (the firm bought 2.9% of the company) and Goldman Sachs Asset Management in Demand Media (acquired 6% of the company).

Demand Media, the owner of Saatchi Art and Society6 art properties, continues to overhaul its board ranks as part of the leadership changes initiated last year (see related coverage). Last week the firm announced departures of its President Shawn Colo and of its board member Gauray Bhandari. The stock remains highly volatile and the jury is still out if Demand turnaround works – the firm reports results on March 5.