From tiny acquisitions to massive conglomerate combinations, the urge to merge remains strong on Wall Street. How can we tell the dealmakers from the dealbreakers?

Breaking down the buildup
To help, we'll turn to the 115,000-plus investors in Motley Fool CAPS. Our data suggests that top-rated stocks offer the best opportunity to capture the best returns. A combination of two companies with high CAPS ratings should bode well for the new company's future results, while a high-rated company that joins a lower-rated one may benefit one set of investors more than the other.

Despite troubles in the capital markets, the deals won't stop; they simply might involve more stock and less cash. Here are a handful of recently announced deals and the ratings for each participating company on CAPS' five-star scale:

Acquirer

CAPS Rating

Target

CAPS Rating

Deal Price

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)

***

Greenfield Online

***

$486 million

Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO)

****

China Huiyuan Juice

NR

$2.5 billion

Zimmer (NYSE:ZMH)

****

Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT) spine unit

****

$360 million

Teradyne (NYSE:TER)

***

Eagle Test Systems

*****

$250 million

Shionogi

NR

Sciele Pharma (NASDAQ:SCRX)

*****

$1.4 billion

Red Hat

**

Qumranet

NR

$107 million

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

A merger of equals?
Ceding nothing to Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft is buying Greenfield Online in an effort to bolster Live Search. From a financial perspective, it's not a bad deal. Microsoft is getting a European site that offers price comparison, shopping, and reviews, and it can sell off Greenfield's Internet survey business. Of course, Google is encroaching further onto Microsoft's turf with its new Chrome browser, but CAPS member softwareinvent doesn't think that people will stop buying Microsoft products:

C'mon people -- they have a monopoly on the software that runs on every computer in the world. That's not going away any time soon. Google's new browser won't magically make people quit buying [W]indows and [O]ffice.

Meanwhile, in what amounts to the largest foreign acquisition of a Chinese company, Coca-Cola is buying China Huiyuan, a juice company in China. The move comes after the beverage behemoth bought a Russian juicer in 2005 and a Mexican one last year, and it marks a further attempt to diversify its holdings away from carbonated drinks. Still, just a few days ago, CAPS member deathdealer562 said that at its current price levels, Coke is not a good buy:

Not at this price. Buy it on a 25% pull back. A buy under $40.00. … Just because Buffett owns it, doesn't mean you have to own it too. Do your homework people.

Zimmer is diversifying, too. The hip-replacement maker is adding some backbone to its operations by buying the Abbott Labs spine unit. Abbott is focusing its energy on becoming a pharmaceutical company, and CAPS All-Star JUT8407 figures that with a good product pipeline and an aging population, Abbott is well-positioned to capitalize on the changing demographics:

[The] entire health care & Pharmaceutical sector [is] very undervalued. [Has] a very good pipeline and also has many products available today producing great revenues for the company. With an aging population a drug for just about anything, this will be a good/safe bet.

Teradyne is another company making deals to support what it does best. The maker of semiconductor test equipment is adding to its portfolio by bringing in Eagle Test Systems, which makes analog, mixed-signal and radio-frequency semiconductor test products. Teradyne's latest earnings results had CAPS member DaBajan expecting the company to further expand its offerings in just such a way: "Just announced better than expected/expected results and is showing solid growth potential. Look for 4% more growth next year and further expansion into its market segment."

A value-added offer
What's your take on these deals? It pays to start your own research on these stocks on Motley Fool CAPS. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made -- all from a stock's CAPS page. Tell the CAPS community whether the urge to merge is good to go -- or whether you think it's better for the companies involved to remain independent.

Microsoft and Coca-Cola are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns shares of Intel but has no financial position in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.