Who says that witnessing companies frolic in the takeover market isn't as thrilling as watching a couple of professional sports teams go at it on the gridiron or the diamond? I personally think it is, and I think we're still in about the first quarter of Alcoa's (NYSE:AA) effort to acquire Canadian rival -- and former sibling -- Alcan (NYSE:AL). This, despite Alcan's Tuesday rejection of Alcoa's blandishments.

You'll recall that earlier this month, Pittsburgh-based Alcoa announced a $27 billion offer for Alcan. The two companies, which were part of a single unit until a half-century ago, apparently had been in merger discussions for as long as two years, but those conversations ultimately were broken off by the Canadian company.

As soon as Alcoa's offer was announced, speculation began that large mining companies like Australia's BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) or Rio Tinto (NYSE:RTP) would enter the fray with an offer for Alcan, Alcoa, or both. Now, with Alcan having rebuffed Alcoa, the Montreal-based company's CEO, Dick Evans, has confirmed that Alcan is in talks with unspecified third parties.

Billiton would seem to be an especially logical acquirer for Alcan. The Australian company mines or otherwise produces alumina, petroleum, base metals, carbon steel materials, diamonds, and stainless steel materials. But absent interest from that quarter, Rio Tinto or Vale do Rio Doce (NYSE:RIO) conceivably could assume a white knight role.

In any event, it's clear that, should it desire to continue its quest for Alcan, Alcoa will be forced to sweeten its offer significantly. At $58.60 a share, plus 0.4108 of its own shares, the Alcoa bid values Alcan at about $75 a share, or well below Tuesday's $81.03 Alcan close. The latter company's shares are up roughly 40% since Alcoa's foray was announced on May 7.

So where does this leave Foolish investors? Well, first, I'm personally enjoying this professional sports substitute, which I don't expect to be concluded in the near term. And at the same time, I urge Fools to study the primary players in this contest closely. Both Alcoa and Alcan clearly are solid entities that, despite their recent price appreciation, continue to trade at discounts to the broader markets.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your questions or comments. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.