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Artprice eyes sales boost from online auctions

By Alice Cannet

PARIS (Reuters) - French art database and ad specialist Artprice.com expects sales to soar this year on the back of the launch of an online auction service, its chief executive told Reuters on Monday.

The company, whose shares have risen 470 percent in the last 12 months, sees revenue reaching tens of millions of euros, compared with 3.8 million ($5 million) in the first nine months of last year, Thierry Ehrmann said in an interview.

"I think we will do in 2012 what we expected to do in 2013, 2014," Ehrmann said.

The CEO expects at least 90,000 works of art to go up for sale on the online auction service this year, the equivalent of about 250 a day, though the site has seen more than three times that amount daily in the 12 days since it launched.

Artprice.com was founded in 1987 and began by selling databases to consumers and professionals on the lookout for specialized information about artists, fairs, classified advertisements and upcoming auctions on a single platform.

The group, which competes in some areas with Germany's Artnet, then launched various websites offering real-time prices, market indicators and indexes along with auction results through a mix of free and monetized content.

Ehrmann expects online auction sales to make up around 90 percent of the total in the next three years. In 2012, he predicts up to 3 million clients will take part in the auctions. Artprice.com attracted 1.3 million subscribers last year.

"From what we see in January, it is evident that we are going to see a metamorphosis of our top and bottom lines which is spectacular," said Ehrmann, a visual artist and sculptor.

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For fundamental data on company: http://xtra.session.rservices.com/rcardxtra?RIC=ARTF.PA

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The company is also looking to team up with Google to have a built-in application for use on smartphones and tablets using Google's Android operating system, Ehrmann said.

It has developed 12 mobile and tablet applications, an important "growth engine" according to Ehrmann.

Artprice.com, headquartered at the Abode of Chaos open-air contemporary art museum near Lyon displaying 4,000 works of art, targets a core market of art pieces worth between $15,000 and $150,000.

The company, which provides a free advertisement service, charges commissions of 5-9 percent on auction sales.

Ehrmann added that he planned to open a Hong Kong unit this year and hoped China, Taiwan and Hong Kong sales would grow to 55 percent of the total by 2013 from 35 percent currently.

China has become the world's largest art market, while France's fine art market has struggled, according to the CEO.

($1 = 0.7625 euros)

(Editing by James Regan)

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