The first salvo may have been fired this week in a long-awaited shakeout for the U.S. ethanol industry. VeraSun Energy, the nation's No...

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The first salvo may have been fired this week in a long-awaited shakeout for the U.S. ethanol industry.

VeraSun Energy, the nation’s No. 2 ethanol producer, announced it had received an unsolicited takeover bid, one month after seeking bankruptcy protection and just hours after the nation’s biggest producer, Poet, said it was talking with several other companies about buyouts.

Neither Poet nor VeraSun would say if the two are negotiating a deal.

“They (Poet) are one of the larger private guys that would have the necessary capital to actually do this,” said Cory Garcia, a Houston-based senior research associate with Raymond James & Associates.

Poet and VeraSun, both based in Sioux Falls, S.D., together control more than a quarter of the nation’s ethanol capacity.

Todd Alexander, a New York partner in the renewable-energy group of law firm Chadbourne & Parke, said a likely scenario would pair an existing producer with an outside financial partner.