(Dec. 29) Albertson’s Inc., Boise, Idaho, is no longer for sale, but the company’s underperforming assets are.

Albertson’s, which had been on the auction block since September, rejected a $9.6 billion offer for the entire company Dec. 22 from a consortium that included Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu Inc.. On Dec. 23, Albertson’s said on its Web site that it was no longer considering the sale of the entire company. The company added, however, that “in order to improve shareholder value,” it would continue efforts to unload its underperforming assets.

Ed Odron, president of Produce Marketing Consultants, Stockton, Calif., said the strategy of selling off underperforming stores or divisions and reinvesting the money in stronger divisions had worked in the past for competitors such The Kroger Co., Cincinnati, and Safeway Inc., Pleasanton, Calif.

“The next month should be very interesting,” Odron said. “It will show the direction they’re going.”

Albertson’s is the nation’s third-largest grocery retailer and operates about 2,500 food stores and drugstores in 37 states under the Albertsons, Acme, Shaw’s, Jewel-Osco, Sav-on Drugs, Osco Drug, Star Market, Super Saver and Bristol Farms banners. Albertson’s did not specify which divisions of the company were underperforming or most likely to be sold.

Burt Flickinger III, managing director of New York-based consulting firm Strategic Research Group, told The Idaho Statesman that Albertson’s grocery stores in Florida and Texas could be the first to go because those operations face tough competition from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark.