Louis-Dreyfus Gets December Deadline to Buy Out Family Members

(Bloomberg) -- Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, the billionaire who controls the eponymous commodities trader, has until December to buy out family members after a private arbitration to settle a dispute over valuation, a filing by one of the shareholders shows.

The conclusion of the long-running tussle means the Russian-born chairperson of Louis Dreyfus Co. may have just a few months to find additional financing, adding to pressure on her after poor trading results and the simultaneous resignation this week of the company’s two top executives.

Louis-Dreyfus, 56, needs to pay about $900 million to shareholders in the trading house’s holding company who exercised their right to sell, according to a person involved in the process, who asked not be named because the matter is confidential.

Louis Dreyfus Co., or LDC, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The shareholder dispute over one of the world’s top agricultural traders has been running since 2015, when several members of the family invoked an agreement requiring Margarita Louis-Dreyfus to buy their shares. The two sides last year agreed to arbitration to decide on the valuation of a 16.6 percent stake in the trading house’s holding company, Louis Dreyfus Holding BV, or LDH.

An agreement was reached in the arbitration in February, and Louis-Dreyfus must complete the purchase of the shares by the end of this year, according to the person and the financial statements of MJLD SAS, the holding company of Marie-Jeanne Meyer and her family, which owns a 5.61 percent stake in LDH.

The Meyer family didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

This summer, the arbitration determined the value of the combined 16.6 percent stake at about $900 million, the person said.

It’s not clear how Louis-Dreyfus will finance the share purchase, which would increase her stake in LDH to more than 96 percent from about 80 percent today.

LDH paid a $350 million dividend to shareholders in May, according to its financial statements. The payment came just before LDC completed the sale of its metal-trading business to Chinese investors.

Louis-Dreyfus, who took control of the trading house after her husband Robert died in 2009, has in the past taken on debt to fund buyouts. She pledged some of her family’s shares in the commodities trading house to back $475 million of loans with Credit Suisse Group AG.

Still, LDC’s poor results may complicate any talks over further loans. The trader has been hammered by weak results in agriculture trading and a bailout of its Brazilian sugar-processing unit Biosev SA that required a $1 billion injection from LDH.

In addition to the metals sale, the company has sold stakes in its fertilizer operations. It has also considered striking joint-ventures in other units including orange juice. In 2015, Louis-Dreyfus said she was considering selling a minority stake to external investors.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.