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Louis Dreyfus faces uncertain future

Family-controlled agricultural trader Louis Dreyfus' plans for a possible merger with rival Olam International has come to an end, raising speculations about the future of the company.

Merger plans between Paris-based Louis Dreyfus and Singapore-based Olam, first announced in September 2010, have been reported to have collapsed due to over differing views on how to grow the business. Analysts say that a merger between the two would have created the world's third-largest agricultural trading house, with an estimated market value of between $15 and $18 billion.

The termination of talks for a possible merger raises speculations about the future of the French company founded in 1851. Its future had already been unclear following the death of its chief executive Robert Louis-Dreyfus in 2009. Prior to his death, he had committed to buy out minority shareholders from 2012.

His widow Margarita currently holds more than 50% stake in the business while family shareholders and management hold around 20%. While Margarita wants to keep the company in private control, analysts say there is growing debate within shareholders to take the company public through a listing.

The 159-year-old company began as a grains trader, and currently has revenues exceeding $35 billion.

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