26 de marzo de 2015 / 17:48 / hace 3 años

UPDATE 1-Louis Dreyfus owner raises stake; CEO hunt goes on

* Margarita Louis-Dreyfus’ trust now has 80 pct of holding

* Says higher 2014 results show can take time to find CEO

* Outside investors an option for the future (Combines with Akira shareholding story, adds quotes, detail)

By Gus Trompiz

PARIS, March 26 (Reuters) - Margarita Louis-Dreyfus has tightened her control over Louis Dreyfus Commodities B.V. , and said solid 2014 results showed the trading group could take its time in its almost year-long search for a new chief executive.

The Russian-born billionaire said on Thursday her family trust, Akira, had raised its stake in Louis Dreyfus Holding to 80 percent from 65 percent, after minority family shareholders exercised options to sell shares to Akira.

The holding firm in turn owns 85 percent of Louis Dreyfus Commodities, with employees owning the remaining capital.

The commodities group earlier reported a small rise in 2014 net profit to $648 million, with increased volumes and processing margins offsetting lower commodity prices. The results showed current management was keeping the company on track, it said.

The 164-year-old firm would take its time to find a leader who fitted its values, Margarita Louis-Dreyfus told reporters, brushing off concerns about a CEO vacuum that was prolonged when the appointment of the former head of Canada’s Viterra fell through suddenly in December.

“(The management team) gives us the possibility to have very high results and at the same time to look for a CEO and take our time,” she said, referring to management led by Executive Chairman and former CEO Serge Schoen and acting CEO and Chief Financial Officer Claude Ehlinger.

She declined to comment on why CEO nominee Mayo Schmidt, who had built up Viterra before overseeing its sale to Glencore , failed to agree terms.

OPTIONS OPEN

A new appointment should be made this year and all options were open for candidates, she said, suggesting however that Ehlinger would stay in the recently created role of deputy CEO.

Margarita Louis-Dreyfus has led a shake-up at the company, steering it into bond markets for the first time and raising the possibility of opening up to outside investors.

Her increased stake in the holding company offered her a secure “super-majority”, she said, adding she had no target to reach 100 percent control.

Minorities have the right to exercise sell options once a year under an agreement that has 15 years still to run and if they do so, one scenario could be to open up a minority stake to an outside investor or through a share listing, she said.

“I just want to repeat that our options are open,” she said.

She declined to disclose further details of the share purchase, but said the transaction had taken up a lot of time.

Shareholders received a $600 million dividend last year, comprising a $300 million regular portion from profits plus an exceptional amount from the sale of a palm plantation interest, Schoen said.

The next CEO will be in charge of $4 billion in investments planned over the next five years, suggesting a $800 million annual rate well above the $592 million in 2014.

In its expansion plans, the group would notably look at logistics and stick to medium-sized acquisitions “in the hundreds of millions, not billions,” Schoen said. (Editing by James Regan, Veronica Brown and Mark Potter)

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