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 135,000-plus investors in Motley Fool CAPS. 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 recent troubles in the capital markets, the deals won't stop; in fact, we've started to see some bigger names involved in buyouts lately. Here are a handful of recently announced offers and deals, and the ratings for each participating company on CAPS' five-star scale:

Acquirer

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Target

CAPS Rating

Deal Price

General Dynamics (NYSE:GD)

****

Axsys Technologies (NASDAQ:AXYS)

*****

$643 million

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

****

Wind River Systems (NASDAQ:WIND)

***

$884 million

NetApp

***

Data Domain (NASDAQ:DDUP)

*

$1.8 billion

Cameron

*****

NATCO Group (NYSE:NTG)

*****

$780 million

CAPS ratings courtesy of Motley Fool CAPS.

Into it deep
In a tough economy, it's hard to believe, but Data Domain has been the lucky beneficiary of a bidding war between NetApp and EMC (NYSE:EMC). In the latest twist, Data Domain reaffirmed its recommendation in favor of the NetApp offer, even though both bids were for $30 a share and EMC offered an all-cash buyout, as opposed to the mix of cash and stock that NetApp's proposing. Data Domain asked shareholders not to tender shares until its board could make a determination about the EMC offer.

Data Domain's products search out and destroy duplicate documents on a company's system, thereby saving them money in storage costs. Revenues at the backup and disaster-recovery systems provider have grown at a compounded annual rate of 126% over the past two years, making the company an obvious target for cash-rich acquirers. But if it's going to come down to a battle of bank balances, EMC ought to win the war handily. It has more than $6.3 billion gathering dust, compared to the $1.5 billion NetApp has in its arsenal.

Data Domain shares traded today above the $30 buyout price, suggesting that shareholders expect further bids. If NetApp proves successful in its takeover attempt, CAPS member meidab0y likes what Data Domain will do for NetApp's sales, saying the companies complement each other well.

But it might be surprising to learn that investors think Data Domain might be pulling a fast one. CAPS member Turbo91 argues that its de-duplicating technology is far from unique, and that it is in fact becoming rather common. Is even $30 a share too much for either EMC or NetApp to pay? Says Turbo91: "The technology is becoming ubiquitous (with all the big players offering a de-duping product). Data Domain has no issues with the patents (they have a deal with the patent owner), but neither do the other players."

Calling out growth
Getting away from its core computer chip market isn't something Intel is known for, but lately it has decided that there's more to the semiconductor business than just PCs. Earlier this year, Intel announced plans to produce its Atom processors for the automotive market. To further its effort, Intel joined an alliance of auto-industry manufacturers developing and promoting an open-source platform for "in-vehicle infotainment" systems -- running Atom processors on Wind River Linux. In light of that partnership, Intel's purchase of Wind River seems like a logical follow-up.

CAPS member nGenius isn't alone in noting the variety of applications and situations where you'll find that Intel processors: "Designs and produces very important chip components found in computers, mobile devices, communications, [and more] in government, corporate, [businesses], hospitals, schools, and [so on]."

Highly rated All-Star member 30andholding pointed out the proliferation of Atom processors in netbooks:

Netbooks. Cheap little laptops that provide basically web access and word processing functionality. Some of these little gizmos are cheaper than high end ipods. I think they will be the wave of the future and an important factor in getting a computer into every home. Every last one of them runs the Intel ATOM chip.

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 to CAPS than you might think.

Axsys Technologies is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. The Fool has written put options on Intel. 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.