From tiny acquisitions to massive conglomerate combinations, Wall Street's urge to merge remains strong. How can we tell the dealmakers from the deal breakers?

Breaking down the buildup
To help, we'll turn to the 120,000-plus investors in Motley Fool CAPS. Our data suggests that top-rated stocks offer the best oppportunity to capture the best returns. A combination of two companies with high CAPS ratings should bode well for the new firm'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

Cardiovascular Systems

NR

Replidyne

*

$40 million

Odyssey Investment Partners

NR

SM&A (NASDAQ:WINS)

*****

$119.6 million

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK)

****

Genelabs Technologies

NR

$57 million

Syneron (NASDAQ:ELOS)

*****

Inlight

NR

Undisclosed

Cepheid (NASDAQ:CPHD)

***

Stretton Scientific

NR

1.2 million pounds

Monsanto (NYSE:MON)

****

Aly Participacoes

NR

$290 million

Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL)

****

Haley

NR

Undisclosed

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

A merger of equals?
Oracle's purchase of Haley, a software firm that offers automated legislation, policy, and business rules management, underscores the assertion of CAPS member aaachooo that enterprise level applications are still being deployed.

I work in enterprise IT. Oracle is sticky. Companies are not replacing their oracle database systems within the next 10-15 years. Companies are storing more data, deploying more enterprise applications.... no one is replacing oracle. Also if you have a entire team of oracle dbas introducing a new db into the mix can quickly cost you.

The global economy may be deteriorating, and Brazil may be leading the way down as much as it did on the upswing, but there will be areas of prosperity nonetheless. Both Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM) are investing heavily in the country that has led the way with ethanol production. rgu3 figures, though, that food production will be the engine that pushes it forward.

Growing populations in India, Brazil and China demanding more food. And more meat fed with grain. Arable land decreasing due to industrial and housing demands. Water shortages. Oil prices contributing to higher production costs. Farmers will choose those seeds that can produce more crops on increasingly marginal acreage with higher per acre yields and higher nutritional content. No matter how your business is doing, the family still has to eat.

A shot of something
The decision to buy distributor Stretton Scientific is in line with Cepheid's goal of improving the sales channel for its diagnostic products. CAPS member KatWoman50 felt earlier this summer that Cepheid already had a solid business there: "Genetic analysis for diagnostic, industrial and biothreat markets.... Slowdown in biothreat business leading drop but core staph test is solid and stock should come back."

A value-added offer
What's your take on these deals? Let us know on Motley Fool CAPS. And while there, you can start your own research on these or other stocks. 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. There's more than you think.

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 has a disclosure policy.

Syneron Medical is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems Pay Dirt and Rule Breakers selection. GlaxoSmithKline is a Income Investor pick.Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.