Whether it's small "tuck in" acquisitions, large megamergers between industry giants, or even taking significant stakes in another company, the urge to merge remains strong.

We can't always tell the good deals from the bad. While we might get "synergy," we can just as easily get what investing legend Peter Lynch called "de-worse-ification": weakening an existing business's core competency by grafting on wildly unrelated subsidiaries.

Breaking down the buildup
We're going to take a shortcut to decipher the good deals from the dealbreakers. We'll see how the 65,000 investors in the Motley Fool CAPS universe rate the companies hooking up. If two highly rated companies seek a better life together, we figure they might also do better down the road. Conversely, if one company is highly rated and the other low, we might expect one set of investors to come out ahead, since those ratings forecast investor sentiment of future prospects.

Could troubles in the capital markets finally be taking their toll in the M&A arena? While deals won't stop, the loss of easy credit could spur more stock swaps to play a role in financing transactions. Here's a handful of some of the recently announced deals, and the CAPS community's ratings for the players involved, on its scale of one to the maximum five stars:

Target

CAPS Rating

Acquirer

CAPS Rating

Deal Price

Adnexus Therapeutics

NR

Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY)

***

$430 million

Sling Media

NR

EchoStar Communications (NASDAQ:DISH)

**

$350 million

PrimeWest Energy Trust (NYSE:PWI)

****

Abu Dhabi Nat'l Energy

NR

$2.4 billion

C-COR (NASDAQ:CCBL)

****

ARRIS Group (NASDAQ:ARRS)

****

$730 million

Metal Management

****

Sims Group (OTCBB: SMUPF.PK)

NR

$1.6 billion

CAPS ratings courtesy of Motley Fool CAPS; NR = not rated.

While merger activity has slowed -- according to Dealogic, global merger activity is expected to fall 30% in September -- there's still enough action for investors. The deal tracker also reports that there's been more than $13.3 trillion worth of deals made since 2004 -- the richest three-year run since the tech boom at the turn of the century.

Getting the information flow
So what do CAPS investors think about these targets and acquirers? These deals are bigger than some we've seen in past weeks, with most exceeding a half-billion dollars in value. In fact, other than the almost-$5 billion MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) offer earlier this month, these are some of the biggest acquisitions we've seen in a while.

Echo, sling, merge, split
Although it's the smallest acquisition, EchoStar's bid for Sling Media is also one of the more interesting deals, if only because the satellite TV provider has also said it is considering splitting into two companies afterward. Attach a Slingbox between your TV and the Internet, and you can watch programs you've recorded throughout your home network, or even on the road via your laptop.

That alone gives EchoStar a "cool" factor, but the news that it wants to divide in two is equally interesting. One business would focus only on its DISH Network, while the other would concentrate on everything else EchoStar provides: set-top box design and manufacturing, uplink centers, spectrum licenses, and the Slingbox.

While the bullish CAPS investors outweigh the bears by three to one, those who believe that EchoStar will underperform have made the more compelling arguments. Some see its court battle with TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) as EchoStar's ultimate undoing. Others, like koch, have had some negative personal experiences with the company: "DISH's customer service was pathetic when we recently tried to purchase DISH. I'm too sick of them to write the whole story, but it was several hours on hold on their customer "support" 800 number, culminating in us finally canceling our order."

The top Bear pitch was penned by industry research analysts NetScribes, who summed up the case earlier this year:

The patent infringement case with Tivo has resulted in an increase in litigation costs which has affected the company's margins. It also appears that Echostar will end up losing the case and paying millions in damages. Not just that, it could be prohibited from distributing DVR's which could spell doom for its business. With a loss in the court case looming large and increased competition from cable companies, it looks like 2007 will be a rough year for Echostar.

A spinoff might shield one business from the other, making one less attractive -- Standard & Poor's already has EchoStar's low investment-grade credit rating under review, and may lower it further -- but a loss to TiVo could be particularly damaging.

A value-added offer
What's your take on these deals? Should investors accept the cash or take stock in the new company if offered? Only at Motley Fool CAPS is your opinion as valuable as the pros. Tell the CAPS community whether the urge to merge is good to go or would it be better to fight for independence.

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Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy stands alone.