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$20 million Porsche flops in auction snafu

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Attendees view the 1939 Type 64 coupe, designed and driven by Porsche AG automobiles founder Ferdinand Porsche, displayed during the RM Sotheby’s auction at the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, California, U.S., on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019.

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A Porsche that was expected to sell for over $20 million flopped on the auction block Saturday night, after the sale was thrown into disarray by a technical error.

The car, a 1939 Porsche “Type 64” that was already facing controversy in the collecting world, hit the auction block Saturday night at RM Sotheby’s in Monterey, California, as part of the sales surrounding the Concours D’Elegance car extravaganza.

RM Sotheby’s auctioneer started the bidding at $13 million. But the giant screen display in the auction room showed the first bid as $30 million. The next bid was $14 million, but the screen showed $40 million — an error that continued all the way up $17 million, when the screen showed $70 million.

The crowd was erupting in cheers and shouts as the price on the screen was showing that the Porsche was selling for a record-shattering price. But at $17 million, the auctioneer stopped the bids and announced that the screen showing $70 million was wrong and that the leading bid was $17 million.

“I’m saying 17, not 70,” said the auctioneer, Maarten ten Holder. “That’s 17 million.”

The crowd in the auction room — often a boisterous one after a day of parties and events in the area — immediately started booing and shouting at the error.

There were no more bids after $17 million. Since $17 million was below the reserve price — or minimum required by the seller — RM Sotheby’s pulled the lot.

“The car didn’t meet reserve,” RM Sotheby’s said in a brief statement. “We will make every effort to sell the car post-sale.”

Some attendees in the audience said that because ten Holder is Dutch, his “17 million” sounded like “70 million,” so both the screen operator and audience was confused.

Whatever the reason, the sale debacle was an embarrassing and costly mistake for RM Sotheby’s, which expected to auction off nearly $200 million worth of cars over the weekend.

“We take pride in conducting our world-class auctions with integrity and we take our responsibility to our clients very seriously,” the company said. “This was in no way intentional on behalf of anyone at RM Sotheby’s, rather an unfortunate misunderstanding amplified by excitement in the room.”

It also marked a fitting climax to a week of sales that fell well below expectations, and could signal more trouble ahead for the classic car market. Total sales for six auctions over the course of the week were expected to top $380 million, according to Hagerty, the collectible-car insurance and valuation firm. But the preliminary total as of Sunday morning, with virtually all the auctions complete, was only $245 million — marking a 34% decline from last year.

Experts said the wild swings in the stock market and fears of a global slowdown may have weighed more than expected on the minds of wealthy collectors.

“Whether it’s the threat of recession, broad economic volatility or too many cars crammed in too few hours, there’s no denying the this year’s Monterey Auction Week results were depressed,” Hagerty said in a statement.

Sotheby’s did manage to sell a 1994 McLaren F1 for $19.8 million just shy of its estimate of $21 million to $23 million. And it sold one of the James Bond Aston Martin DB5’s — used in promotions for “Thunderball” — for $6.4 million Thursday night. Gooding & Co. sold a 1958 Ferrari 250 California LWB Spider for $9.9 million.

But along with the Porsche, which Porsche AG said was not a genuine Porsche, RM Sotheby’s also failed to auction off a 1953 Aston Martin DB3S works race car, which was expected to fetch over $8.75 million and only attracted a high bid of $7.5 million.

Other auction houses also had expensive misses, including Mecum’s 1959 Ferrari 250 Monza that went unsold at $20 million.

The only segment of the market that was strong this week in Monterey was the low end, for cars under $75,000. A 1970 Triumph TR6 went for $28,000 at Bonhams, more than double its current Hagerty market value. And a 1961 Chevy Impala convertible sold for $66,000 — also well above its book value.

“With all these statistics signaling a slumping market, the question will be whether this is felt in the broader market or be isolated to this week’s sales,” Hagerty said.

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US warnings about China are lies, Foreign Minister Wang says

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi makes a speech during the 56th Munich Security Conference at Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich, Germany on February 15, 2020.

Abdulhamid Hosbas | Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

MUNICH — China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday that U.S. criticisms of Beijing were “lies” and blamed Washington for the tumultuous relationship between the world’s two largest economies.

“The root cause of all these problems and issues is that the U.S. does not want to see rapid development and rejuvenation of China, still less would they want to accept the success of a socialist country, but that is not fair, China has the right to develop,” Wang said during a discussion at the Munich Security Conference.

“China’s drive towards modernization is an inevitable trend of history and will not be held back or stopped by any force in the world because it represents the direction of human progress,” he added.

Wang’s comments at the Munich Security Conference followed those of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, both delivering back-to-back speeches accusing China of malign activities.

“China encroaches on the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. And on that point, China has had a border or maritime dispute with nearly every nation bordering it,” Pompeo told an audience at the security forum. “And let’s talk for a second about the other realm, cybersecurity. Huawei and other Chinese state-backed tech companies are Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence,” he added.

Esper said Beijing was caring out a “nefarious strategy” through telecommunications firm Huawei. “It is essential that we as an international community wake up to the challenges presented by Chinese manipulation of the long-standing international rules-based order,” he warned.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks at Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020.

Munich Security Conference | Kuhlmann

When asked about the speeches made by Pompeo and Esper, Wang dismissed U.S. criticisms and said that Beijing would continue to seek a better relationship with Washington.

“This has become a common scenario, they say basically the same thing everywhere they go about China, and I don’t want to waste our time responding to each and every thing they’ve said. The thing I want to say is that all these accusations against China are lies and not based on facts,” Wang said of Pompeo and Esper’s comments.

“The most important task for China and the U.S. is to sit down together, have a serious dialogue and find a way for two major countries with different social systems to live in harmony and interact in peace. China is ready and we hope the U.S. will work with us in the same direction,” he added.

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Coronavirus live updates: Taiwan confirms first death

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Excited passengers disembark from the MS Westerdam, which is now docked in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. The cruise ship arrived in Cambodia on February 14, 2020 after being stranded for two weeks

Paula Bronstein | Getty Images

This is a live blog. Please check back for updates.

All times below are in U.S. Eastern Standard Time.

China’s National Health Commission reported that there were 2,009 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 142 additional deaths as of Feb. 15. The total number of cases in mainland China has reached 68,500, and the total deaths has reached 1,665, according the latest statistics from the commission on Sunday.

6:21 am: Taiwan confirms death of man with no known history of travel to China

Taiwan said a man in his 60s with a history of hepatitis B and diabetes has died of the virus. It’s the first death on the island. The man died Saturday after nearly two weeks in a hospital, but does not have a known history of traveling to China.

Health officials are investigating how he became infected. Taiwan has 20 confirmed cases of the virus.

3:40 am: American from cruise ship tests positive for second time in Malaysia

An 83-year-old American woman who was previously aboard the MS Westerdam cruise ship in Cambodia last week has tested positive for the virus a second time since flying back to Malaysia, officials there said on Sunday. She was one of 2,257 passengers and crew onboard at sea for nearly 14 days, and the first to test positive for the virus.

Officials said that more than 140 of the passengers on the ship traveled through Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur airport, and all but eight traveled on to destinations in the U.S., Europe and Australia.

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Libya arms embargo a ‘joke,’ says UN official

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A fighter loyal to Libya’s U.N.-backed government (GNA) gestures during a clash with forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar at the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya May 21, 2019.

REUTERS | Goran Tomasevic

Violations of an arms embargo in Libya have become a joke and it is imperative that those who breach it are held to account, a senior U.N. official said on Sunday.

“The arms embargo has become a become a joke, we all really need to step up here,” U.N. Deputy Special Representative to Libya Stephanie Williams told a news conference in Munich.

“It’s complicated because there are violations by land, sea and air, but it needs to be monitored and there needs to be accountability.”

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