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Billionaire Louis-Dreyfus Takes Big Dividend From Commodities Trader

Javier Blas and Andy Hoffman
·2-min read

(Bloomberg) -- Margarita Louis-Dreyfus took another hefty dividend from the eponymous agricultural-commodity trading house she controls, as the billionaire continues to squeeze the business for cash.

During the first six months of the year, Louis Dreyfus Co. paid a dividend of $302 million. The payout related to last year’s profit, the sale of several assets in Canada and its former metals-trading business, according to the company’s interim financial statement. The dividend reduced the company’s equity to $4.48 billion at the end of June, down from $4.79 billion six months earlier.

Louis-Dreyfus, who controls more than 96% of the holding company that owns LDC, has been taking big dividends over the past few years to help repay about $1 billion she borrowed to buy out other family members. The payouts, often surpassing the trading house’s profit, have steadily reduced the company’s value.

The billionaire owner has been in talks to sell a minority stake in the company, recently holding negotiations with Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADQ. A successful deal would give the trading house an injection of much-needed cash.

On top of its owner’s troubles, the company has struggled over recent years, amid frequent management changes and declining earnings. Veteran Michael Gelchie will become chief executive officer later this week -- the seventh CEO appointed by Dreyfus in eight years -- replacing Ian McIntosh.

Despite its recent travails, the first half of 2020 showed some improvement for LDC. Net income climbed 77% to $126 million from a year earlier, despite significant losses from the collapse of Luckin Coffee Inc. Net sales decreased to $16.3 billion, as both prices and volumes shipped fell year-on-year.

“The results reported today put LDC in a strong position from which to advance its ambitious growth plans,” said Gelchie.

Net debt fell to $6.7 billion at the end of June, from $6.9 billion at the end of 2019, reducing its adjusted leverage ratio to 2.8 times.

Dreyfus is the D in the vaunted “ABCD” group that dominates the world of agricultural commodities trading. The others are Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., Bunge Ltd. and Cargill Inc.

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