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The result shows a modest narrowing of the gap year on year between them and Christie's, who reported a 16% rise to $7.1bn (£4.5bn) last month.

Underlying figures show a record total for private sales - a key battleground for business in recent years - at $1.2bn (£760m) for Sotheby's, a 30% rise on 2012, while fourth-quarter profits rose by 37% year on year at $90.7m (£57.4m) and by 20% across the whole of 2013 to $130m (£82.3m).

Chief financial officer Patrick McClymont said: "We believe the new Capital Allocation and Financial Policy Plan, together with actions Sotheby's has taken to increase our competitiveness in the marketplace and bring complementary expertise to the board and leadership team, best position the company to build value for its clients and shareholders, now and in the future."

However, investor Daniel Loeb, whose company Third Point own just under 10% of Sotheby's stock, continues to challenge the board, nominating himself and two others to become directors.

Sotheby's have responded, saying they are "disappointed that Third Point has chosen this path" and that the nominations "are particularly unfortunate given the efforts that Sotheby's has made to reach an agreement with Mr Loeb", which include offering him a seat on the board with roles on three key committees.