Louis Dreyfus considering options

by Jay Sjerven
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LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND — In an interview with the Financial Times, Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, majority shareholder in the privately held global commodities trading company, Louis Dreyfus BV, indicated that the 163-year-old company may consider a partial sale to a strategic partner or even an initial public offering. Ms. Louis-Dreyfus confirmed the company was taking steps to ensure that if it proved strategically advantageous, Louis Dreyfus could explore either option.

“The message is clear,” Ms. Louis-Dreyfus said at the FT Commodities Global Summit in Switzerland. “We will do what’s best for the company. And if at a given moment we find — not for financial but for strategic reasons — that we have to work with a partner or the stock market, then we’ll be ready.”

Louis Dreyfus is the world’s largest rice and cotton trader and the second largest trader in sugar and grain. The company was said to be worth about $6 billion.

“People don’t want to believe it is possible to just keep all our options open,” Ms. Louis-Dreyfus said. “But right now, that is the best approach for the company.”

Just the previous week, Louis Dreyfus reported what it termed solid 2013 financial results. The company indicated it had net sales of $63.6 billion in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2013, up 11% from $57.1 billion in 2012. Results were given a boost by a 10% growth in shipped volumes. The company also reported a net income of $640 million in the year and a return on equity of 15%.

“These are very good results, even compared with the record year 2012,” commented Serge Schoen, executive chairman, Louis Dreyfus Commodities Holdings Group. “In 2013, we transported and processed more than 77 million tonnes of commodities. We also continued our investment program to diversify and expand our reach, investing $689 million across all our business lines.”
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