OK, if you're much under the age of 35, you probably have no idea what the No Sale key on a cash register is or looks like. So let me put it another way -- national supermarket chain Albertsons (NYSE:ABS) publicly put itself up for sale, had some talks, looked at the bids, and said, "Nah, no thanks."

After the market closed Thursday, Albertsons said it had ended talks to sell the entire company. Coinciding with this announcement, CVS (NYSE:CVS) announced that it ended talks to buy the company's Sav-on and Osco pharmacies, and SuperValu (NYSE:SVU) announced an end to its attempts to lead a consortium to buy the supermarkets. Albertsons shares are down almost 14% in early trading Friday morning.

Rumor has it the SuperValu consortium was talking about offering about $26 per share for the company -- $20 in cash and $6 in SuperValu stock. How much was Alberstons asking for? We'll probably never know for sure, but a rough cash flow-based calculation of my own would suggest something in the neighborhood of $27 to $30 might have been the target.

So what's next for Albertsons? Well, obviously the company isn't going to just roll over, die, and let rivals like Kroger (NYSE:KR), Walgreen (NYSE:WAG), or Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) pull it apart even further. Instead, the company says it will look to sell off underperforming assets -- hopefully with an eye toward returning some of that capital to shareholders.

And who knows, that could work. If Albertsons takes a page out of General Electric's book and gets out of those markets where it's not No. 1 or No. 2, this could be a smaller company, but one that's better able to generate acceptable returns on capital.

That said, I'd be surprised if this is the last we hear on the buyout front. Maybe Albertsons won't find a buyer to take on the entire company at a mutually agreeable price, but it wouldn't surprise me much if SuperValu's partners -- Cerberus Capital and KimcoRealty (NYSE:KIM) -- came back with an offer of their own for those underperforming stores that Albertsons wants to unload. Takeover speculation is tricky work, though, so I'd caution any and all Fools not to buy Albertsons stock unless you like it on its own merits.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).