UPDATE 1.15pm: Agribusiness and automotive interiors supplier Elders says it is looking to sell its rural services business before someone tries to take over the division.
Elders chief executive Malcolm Jackman said Elders wants to sell the division, which is its biggest business unit, so that it can control the sales process.
Mr Jackman said it was inevitable that, sooner or later, some other company would try to snatch the rural services division from Elders.
"Given the fact that we've got a lot of interest in the agricultural sector at the moment - we've got people approaching us - the board has asked: Should we just be waiting for people to come knocking on the door, or should we take charge of the process?” Mr Jackman told AAP.
"We've decided to take charge of the process in terms of running a formal process and determining what that might look like.
"The sales process might involve a merger, an acquisition by someone, or something else.
"That (the sales process) is being done with the full support of our banking syndicate which we've been in discussions with anyway given the fact that we've got (debt) maturities at the end of the year,” Mr Jackman said.
Elders is already exiting its forestry assets and has put its automotive interiors business up for sale.
Mr Jackman said that as these businesses were sold and Elders became a “pure” agricultural business, it was inevitable that someone would make a play for the rural services business.
Mr Jackman acknowledged that if rural services was sold, Elders will have few assets left, and he could not say if Elders would continue in the form of a publicly-listed company.
But the Elders name would continue because it was among the best known brands in the agricultural sector.
Earlier this month, Ruralco Holdings made overtures to Elders to discuss a possible merger between the two agribusinesses, but no formal proposal has been put on the table.
Mr Jackman said little had happened between the two companies other than an initial exchange of letters.
Mr Jackman also pointed to US-based food processing giant Archer Daniels Midland Company's (ADM) proposed $2.68 billion takeover of Australian grains marketer GrainCorp.
"Rather than respond like GrainCorp, we've decided to take the bull by the horns and control the process,” he said.
Mr Jackman said it was possible that nothing may come of the sales process, and Elders might stay an independent, publicly-listed company.
"It could be that we end up with people who would like to be a cornerstone shareholder but want Elders to stay public."
Mr Jackman said that over the past few years, there had been much interest in the Elders agribusiness.
"I've had people with Aussie accents, Kiwi accents, Canadian, American, Chinese, Japanese - there's lots of interest."
Mr Jackman said it would take about six weeks to prepare to present information to interested parties before Christmas.
It was hoped to proceed to indicative bids early in the new year.
Any sale would be subject to a shareholder vote.
Shares in Elders closed down one cent, or 3.92 per cent, at 24.5 cents.