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Louis Dreyfus considering IPO or partial sale to a SWF

By Giulia Cambieri

Louis Dreyfus Commodities could abandon its private status, with reports suggesting Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, the heiress of the trading giant, is considering listing or selling part of the family business.

According to the Financial Times, which quotes people involved in the discussions, the Geneva-based group – a global commodities, energy, real estate, and diversified trader and processor – may list between 20% and 30% of the business in Zurich by the end of 2012 as a way to raise capital and fund its future growth.

“Over an 18-month horizon, the most likely options are: 50% Louis Dreyfus remains as a private company, 30% a sale of a stake to a sovereign wealth fund from the Middle East or Asia, and 20% an IPO,” a source told the Financial Times.

Margarita Louis-Dreyfus has hired bankers from Credit Suisse to advise the company on the process, according to the report.

In recent months, attempts were made to merge Louis Dreyfus with rivals Olam, Glencore and Bunge, but the talks collapsed each time because of differing views on how to grow the business.

The company's future has been uncertain since the death in 2009 of its chief executive Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who had committed to buy out minority shareholders from 2012, further restricting his widow Margarita’s current options to expand the company’s capital.

Louis Dreyfus was founded in 1851 as a grain trader. The company, which in 2010 had revenues of $46 billion (€33 billion), is still owned by the founding family. Margarita controls 61% of the trading house’s parent Louis Dreyfus Holding through a trust set up after the death of her husband, while other four family members have smaller stakes in it.