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TheStreet's Top 5 Dealmakers Heading into 2014

Stocks in this article: STZMU

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Sometimes investors are too quick to judge and corporate merger and acquisition activity is one area where that mantra is especially fitting. After all, some hedge funds institute arbitrage strategies that seek to profit from investors' misconceptions about M&A.

Stocks often surge or plummet on deal announcements as investors and analysts weigh issues such as price, synergy and the viability of the stock, debt and cash financing of an acquisition. Often, it is the initial reaction that gets the most press, even if deals that investors thought were duds eventually pan out and vice versa. So much so, we've already begun grading deals conducted in 2013, although it will take many more quarters to find out if companies can meet their guidance.

So instead of judging 2013's biggest deals, for instance SoftBank's acquisition of Sprint (S) or the merger of advertising giants Omnicom (OMN) and Publicis, TheStreet thought it would be good to take a slightly longer-term perspective.

Here are a few picks of 2012 deals that appear to be paying off for shareholders and some more recent transactions that look like well-timed bets.

Constellation Brands

Talk to any M&A banker off the record and they will say that the best mergers are either anti-competitive or loaded with cost cutting synergies that usually pique the interest of regulators. What better to do with your cash than knock out a competitor, tighten the screws on suppliers or make burdensome costs redundant?

It should be no surprise then that some of the best performing mergers are the ones that get the closest look by regulators. For instance, pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts (ESRX) continues to outperform the S&P 500 Index since its highly scrutinized acquisition of competitor Medco Health Solutions, even amid drastic change to the healthcare industry as the Obama administration rolls out the Affordable Healthcare Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

One of the most scrutinized deals of 2012 was Constellation Brands (STZ) acquisition of a remaining 50% stake in Crown Imports, the importer of Corona beer to the U.S., from Grupo Modelo during the Mexican beer maker's $20 billion sale to Anheuser Busch Inbev (BUD).

Constellation surged on its piece of Grupo Modelo's sale to AB-InBev, only for shares to plummet shortly thereafter when the U.S. Department of Justice challenged its acquisition of control of Crown Imports on antitrust grounds.

In the end, Constellation was forced to agree to some concessions to get the DoJ's clearance, however, few were far beyond the initial terms of its Crown Imports stake buyout. Now the company has full control of the production, supply chain and brand rights to Modelo brands sold by Crown Imports such as Corona, the most popular imported beer to the U.S.

Since remedies to the DoJ's objections became clear to investors in mid-February of 2013, Constellation's shares have more than doubled to $69.75.

The company's shares are also the seventh best performer on the S&P 500 since the start of 2012, according to Bloomberg data, spurred on by gains made after the company closed its Crown Imports acquisition. Put simply, this deal was miles from ordinary and plenty of shareholders have benefitted.

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