* Trading group faces price drop, emerging market woes
* First-half net profit drops by half to $130 million
* Group says higher volumes show food demand resilient (Adds detail, background)
By Gus Trompiz
PARIS, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Weaker commodity markets led to a halving of first-half profit at Louis Dreyfus Commodities B.V. , but the global trading group said its growing volumes showed food could withstand economic pressures better than other raw materials.
Louis Dreyfus, like traditional rivals Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill that dominate trading in agricultural commodities, has been squeezed by falling prices linked to large global harvests and faltering growth in major commodity markets like Brazil and China.
First-half consolidated net profit, group share, fell to $130 million from $260 million in the first half of last year, while net sales dropped to $26.4 billion from $33.7 billion, the family-owned firm said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The external environment remained difficult during the first half of 2015, with some key countries in the agricultural space facing economic (China and Brazil) and political (Black Sea region) uncertainty,” it said.
Its traditional rivals each disappointed investors with their most recent quarterly results, citing factors including the downturn in Brazil and poor margins for crop-based ethanol fuel.
Volumes shipped by Louis Dreyfus, however, rose 4 percent in the first half in what the group said was a positive sign.
“We also remain confident that our sustained increase in shipped volumes in recent years reflects the fundamentals of the agri-commodity business: continuously growing demand driven by a rising population and an increasing need for food, as well as a relatively less dependency on GDP growth compared to other commodities,” acting Chief Executive Officer Claude Ehlinger said in an accompanying first-half results report.
Shares in listed commodity firms have been hit hard by worries over sliding energy and metal prices, with mining and trading giant Glencore seeing its London-listed shares fall 30 percent on Monday to record lows.
Louis Dreyfus had raised the possibility of a share listing in the future, as part of a corporate shake-up led by main shareholder Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, but its private ownership is seen as having helped it avoid the investor turmoil endured by listed peers like Glencore, Noble and Olam .
Louis Dreyfus has also shied away from headline acquisitions and in the first half of this year scaled back capital investment to $135 million, from $315 million in the year-earlier period, in what Ehlinger called “deliberately granular” spending.
Ehlinger will make way this week for new CEO Gonzalo Ramirez Martiarena, currently the group’s Asia chief who was nominated earlier this month after a longrunning leadership search. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Veronica Brown and Adrian Croft)