Mergers and acquisitions can be a tricky game for a company to play, particularly with many studies showing that most acquisitions do little more than transfer wealth from the buying shareholders to the selling shareholders. Whether those studies are true in general or not, I think Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) has just made a sweet little deal.

The medical-technology company announced Wednesday that it had agreed to acquire privately held Transneuronix for $260 million in cash and future revenue-linked milestone payments.

Transneuronix has developed a less invasive approach in treating severe obesity. The "Transcend," a device similar to a cardiac pacemaker, delivers electrical stimulation to the stomach, which causes it to relax and in turn tricks the brain into thinking that the stomach is full. Thus far, studies have shown meaningful weight loss from this stimulation, with a good safety trade-off.

Though the device was approved in Europe more than three years ago and recently got an OK in Canada, sales have thus far been minimal. According to both companies, about 700 people have had a Transcend device implanted, and 300 of those received it as part of clinical trials.

Transneuronix has completed enrollment in a pivotal U.S. trial of 150 patients, and Medtronic recently initiated a study of the use of the device in treating obese type 2 diabetics. Assuming that the pivotal study goes well, commercialization in America could come in or around 2007.

At this point, it's a bit difficult to accurately project the revenue potential for this device. The price that Medtronic will be able to charge will no doubt be linked in large part to the trial outcomes -- the better the efficacy and safety profile, the more the company can hope to charge. More than 100,000 obesity surgeries are done each year in the United States, though, so it's not hard to project some interesting revenue numbers for such a product.

This isn't likely to be a life-changing acquisition for Medtronic. Even highly optimistic forecasts of an "obesity pacemaker" probably wouldn't amount to 10% of Medtronic's future revenue. That said, since Medtronic knows a little bit about how to make and market pacemakers, it should be a very profitable move for the company.

While I haven't sung Medtronic's praises in the past, I've got to give credit where it's due. To me, this looks like a savvy acquisition. In a worst-case scenario, it's a call option on the obesity market that barely puts a dent in Medtronic's cash hoard. In a better-case scenario, it's a beachhead into one of the more promising medical-intervention markets for the next decade.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned.