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Tickers in this Article: BRK.A, BRK.B, BNI, PHM, ABT, PFE, DIS, MVL
Compared to 2008, 2009 was a year with some very notable deals. With Uncle Sam to the rescue, credit markets eased, giving businesses access to capital on attractive terms. The result? A wave of mergers, buyouts, industry consolidation plays and hostile takeover attempts. Some deals continue to unfold, which likely will continue in 2010. But 2009 bustled with its share of interesting deals.

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A Flurry of Deals
The depth and size of market deals in 2009 gave one the sense that it was 1999 all over again. Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) agreed to buyout Marvel Entertainment (NYSE:MVL) for $4 billion, while Dell Computer paid $3.9 billion for Perot Systems. The pharmaceutical industry was one of the first to get the buyout mania going in 2009.

The housing industry kicked off a wave of consolidation when Centex merged with Pulte Homes (NYSE:PHM) in a $1.3 billion share swap. Consolidation may be the rule going forward for homebuilders, as many continue to bleed away money. In addition, Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT), a smaller competitor to Johnson and Johnson, purchased the pharmaceutical business of Belgium's Solvay SA for as much as $7 billion. No deal was bigger, however, than Pfizer's (NYSE:PFE) acquisition of rival Wyeth, a cash-and-stock deal valued at nearly $70 billion.

THE Deal of 2009
No deal garnered more buzz this year than Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B) $32 billion acquisition of railroad company Burlington Northern Sante Fe (NYSE:BNI). For nearly a decade, Buffett has publicly stated his desire to allocate Berkshire's $40 billion plus cash pile into an "elephant deal" when the time was right. He surprised many by going with a railroad - historically a low return, capital intensive business. However, over the past couple of decades, the railroad industry has gone through a titanic transformation that has produced greater efficiency and increased cost of capital earnings. Buffett's intent is to hold Burlington for decades, which is why this deal is uniquely lucrative for Berkshire. (Learn more about Buffett in Warren Buffett: How He Does It.)

A Look Ahead
For many years to come, these major deals surely will have an impact on their respective industries. It will be interesting to see what's in store for 2010.

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