How to Find the Next M&A Play After Eaton/Cooper

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Monday was a good day for many stock investors, but few experienced the upside pop that owners of Cooper Industries ( CBE) enjoyed.

After Eaton ( ETN) agreed to purchase Cooper Industries in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $11.46 billion, Cooper shares rallied over 25% higher closing near $70-a-share.

What is Eaton's game plan? They're apparently determined to create a company that makes a very wide range of electrical products.

According to Eaton's news release, Eaton Chairman and CEO Alexander M. Cutler, who will also lead the combined operations, said: "This compelling combination of Eaton's power distribution and power quality equipment and systems with Cooper's diversified component brands, global reach and international distribution creates a game changer to serve the electrical industry."

A Wall Street Journal report claimed that the purchase gives Eaton "greater bulk in competing "with global rivals such as Schneider Electric of France, Emerson Electric ( EMR) of the U.S. and ABB ( ABB) of Switzerland.

So how do investors find the next Cooper Industries that will be acquired at a premium by their competitor?

Begin by studying the reasons and the synergies that motivated Eaton to buy Cooper at a 25% premium over last Friday's closing share price.

Study the news release and the specific reasons given by officers surrounding the decision and their motives.

Statements like, "We are extremely pleased to become part of Eaton's global electrical business," said Kirk Hachigian, chairman and chief executive officer of Cooper. "This combination creates endless opportunities to accelerate growth and serve our global customers through combining technology, distribution, penetrating important vertical industries and entering new emerging markets. The two companies are a perfect fit in every respect."

Insights like that give investors some helpful clues as to why Eaton targeted Cooper.

The takeover also reminds us that companies with similar market cap sizes may go after one another if the acquisition is all or part stock and eventually accretive to earnings.

The motive may be expanding the acquirer's scope of business or branching out into more diversified geographic areas.

That's why I wouldn't be surprised if a company like Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold ( FCX) didn't eventually try to acquire a slightly smaller rival like Southern Copper ( SCCO).

It would be a brilliant way for Freeport McMoRan to become less dependent on its labor-hostile Grasberg Mine in Indonesia while adding some producing mines in areas of the world it isn't already involved in.

Another possible combination of companies might involve ABB, currently trading near its 52-week low with a market cap of $37 billion, and believe it or not, Emerson Electric. Who would be the acquirer and who'd be the acquired is debatable.

Once again, finding the next Cooper Industries before it is taken over means looking within specific industry niches.

For example, Pentair ( PNR) which agreed to acquire Tyco Flow Control from Tyco International ( TYC) earlier this year may keep on expanding through acquisitions.

On the other hand, it could end up being acquired by an international company wanting a stronger toehold in the U.S., a company like GDF Suez of Franceland or Siemens ( SI) of Germany.

You get the idea. Let Eaton's devouring of Cooper Industries whet your appetite for finding some other good matches.

Then see if that may help you to anticipate the next big acquisition and positive investment outcome that will seem like a surprise to everyone else but you.

Disclosure: At the time of publication, Marc Courtenay was long FCX.