Agrium's expansion drive appears to have stopped short of an entry into grain handling, with the Canadian group revealing it is in talks to sell the commodity management business bought with Australia's AWB.
Agrium revealed it was in negotiations with "a number of interested parties" over the sale of the grain handling operations bought with the $1.1bn AWB acquisition.
The statement follows considerable debate among investors over whether Agrium, which has undertaken a series of acquisitions in recent years, would be prepared to expand its operational range beyond its existing fertilizer and farm retail markets.
"Most of the buzz about this [AWB] deal has been: 'does Agrium want to be in the grain-handling business?'," Salman Partners analyst Raymond Goldie noted two weeks ago.
Agrium on December 3, announcing the closure of the AWB takeover, said it was "evaluating options" with regards to the commodity management businesses for which its Australian purchase has, historically, been most noted.
"Agrium has not had direct participation in the grain handling and trading business to date," the statement said.
However, Tuesday's announcement stopped short of detailing with whom Agrium is in talks, following speculation fingering Cargill, the US-based agribusiness giant, as a likely buyer.
"No definitive agreement has been entered into with respect to the sale of the commodity management businesses," Agrium said.
AWB was in talks to sell a stake in its domestic grains handling business to US-based Gavilon before the Australian group became a takeover target.
Gavilon, which is backed by George Soros's Soros Fund Management, has since unveiled its own expansion plans in Australia, the southern hemisphere's top wheat-exporting country.
Indeed, Australia's grain handling sector has attracted a wealth of foreign investors, with Canada's Viterra snapping up ABB Grain last year, Japan's Sumitomo Corporation buying into Emerald Group, and the likes of Singapore's Olam International and German-based Toepfer also expanding into the country.
Wednesday's deal was seen by Salman Partners analyst Raymond Goldie as not altering his recommendation that Agrium shares were a "top pick", with a target price of Can$121.
Indeed, it was just the "latest demonstration that Agrium is a canny player of both mergers and of selling assets", Mr Goldie said.
Nonetheless, Agrium shares stood 0.7% lower at Can$80.98 in late deals in Toronto.