(Bloomberg) -- Louis Dreyfus Co. is cutting jobs as the embattled agricultural commodities trader tightens its belt amid low profits, according to people familiar with the matter.
Most of the staff being laid off are in support, back office and administrative functions, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing internal matters. The cuts started in December and it’s unclear how many workers will be affected, the people said.
The move comes weeks after the firm, controlled by billionaire heiress Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, announced a cost-cutting program and “systematic review of hiring and salary increases.” It also follows the company’s decision to sell some assets and exit certain businesses, the people said.
There is a “detailed review process ongoing across the organization, which may include staff reductions, where relevant,” a spokeswoman for Louis Dreyfus said by email. The move is part of plans to “adapt to a challenging external environment,” even as the company focuses on an ambitious business strategy, she said.
The 169-year-old trading house is being squeezed by thin industry margins after years of bumper crops reduced volatility traders need to thrive. It has also been hit by trade wars and the spread of African swine fever in Asia, which has reduced demand for soybeans.
Last year, Louis Dreyfus agreed to sell all of its Canadian inland grain elevators and announced it would exit the dairy business. The company has also sold its metals operations and parts of its fertilizer unit in recent years.
Profit at the company fell 45% to $71 million in the first six months of last year and Chief Executive Officer Ian McIntosh warned in October that tough markets would persist for the rest of the year.
(Updates with Louis Dreyfus comment in fourth paragraph)
--With assistance from Jack Farchy, Javier Blas and Jonathan Gilbert.
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