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Analysts give a lot of attention to potential takeover/leveraged buyout (LBO) targets.

The reason why is when a company announces that it is being taken over or acquired by another firm, the acquisition target’s stock price often jumps in value to reflect the takeover premium paid by the acquirer.

We compiled a list of rumored potential takeover/LBO targets from various sources including Bloomberg Businessweek and Seeking Alpha. We screened this list for those with a history of beating earnings estimates over the last four quarters.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the top six stocks mentioned below. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.‬

We also created a price-weighted index of the stocks mentioned below, and monitored the performance of the list relative to the S&P 500 index over the last month. To access a complete analysis of this list's recent performance, click here.

Do you think these companies are more attractive takeover candidates because of their ability to surprise the market with high earnings? Use this list as a starting-off point for your own analysis.

List sorted by average earnings surprise.

1. Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK): Provides Internet and digital mapping and navigation services worldwide. Market cap of $23.26B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Wall Street Daily. In Sep 2010: Reported EPS at 0.14 vs. estimate at 0.13 (surprise of 7.7%). In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.3 vs. estimate at 0.25 (surprise of 20%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.18 vs. estimate at 0.13 (surprise of 38.5%). In Jun 2011: Reported 0.09 vs. estimate at 0.03 (surprise of 200%). [Average earnings surprise at 66.55%]. The stock has lost 38.98% over the last year.

2. Saks Incorporated (NYSE:SKS): Operates fashion retail stores in the United States. Market cap of $1.63B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Seeking Alpha. In Oct 2010: Reported EPS at 0.06 vs. estimate at 0.03 (surprise of 100%). In Jan 2011: Reported EPS at 0.13 vs. estimate at 0.08 (surprise of 62.5%). In Apr 2011: Reported EPS at 0.17 vs. estimate at 0.16 (surprise of 6.3%). In Jul 2011: Reported -0.05 vs. estimate at -0.09 (surprise of 44.4%). [Average earnings surprise at 53.3%]. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 2.55). The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 31.32% (equivalent to 9.45 days of average volume). The stock has lost 2.12% over the last year.

3. Genesco Inc. (NYSE:GCO): Operates Journeys, Journeys Kidz, and Shi by Journeys stores that offer footwear for young men, women, and children. Market cap of $1.38B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Seeking Alpha. In Oct 2010: Reported EPS at 0.77 vs. estimate at 0.59 (surprise of 30.5%). In Jan 2011: Reported EPS at 1.33 vs. estimate at 1.29 (surprise of 3.1%). In Apr 2011: Reported EPS at 0.67 vs. estimate at 0.48 (surprise of 39.6%). In Jul 2011: Reported 0.22 vs. estimate at 0.1 (surprise of 120%). [Average earnings surprise at 48.3%]. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 10.8% (equivalent to 5.86 days of average volume).The stock has gained 72.88% over the last year.

4. athenahealth, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATHN): Provides ongoing billing, clinical-related, and other related services to medical group practices primarily in the United States. Market cap of $2.19B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Seeking Alpha. In Sep 2010: Reported EPS at 0.18 vs. estimate at 0.13 (surprise of 38.5%). In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.28 vs. estimate at 0.2 (surprise of 40%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.17 vs. estimate at 0.13 (surprise of 30.8%). In Jun 2011: Reported 0.22 vs. estimate at 0.18 (surprise of 22.2%). [Average earnings surprise at 32.88%]. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 18.95% (equivalent to 8.24 days of average volume). The stock has gained 107.19% over the last year.

5. Coventry Health Care Inc. (CVH): Operates as a managed healthcare company in the United States. Market cap of $4.17B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Bloomberg Businessweek. In Sep 2010: Reported EPS at 1.24 vs. estimate at 0.67 (surprise of 85.1%). In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.96 vs. estimate at 0.88 (surprise of 9.1%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.66 vs. estimate at 0.52 (surprise of 26.9%). In Jun 2011: Reported 0.8 vs. estimate at 0.76 (surprise of 5.3%). [Average earnings surprise at 31.6%]. Might be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.88, and P/FCF ratio at 9.28. The stock has performed poorly over the last month, losing 16.57%.

6. Dell Inc. (NASDAQ:DELL): Provides integrated technology solutions in the information technology (IT) industry worldwide. Market cap of $29.87B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Seeking Alpha. In Oct 2010: Reported EPS at 0.45 vs. estimate at 0.33 (surprise of 36.4%). In Jan 2011: Reported EPS at 0.53 vs. estimate at 0.37 (surprise of 43.2%). In Apr 2011: Reported EPS at 0.55 vs. estimate at 0.44 (surprise of 25%). In Jul 2011: Reported 0.54 vs. estimate at 0.49 (surprise of 10.2%). [Average earnings surprise at 28.7%]. The stock has had a good month, gaining 10.09%.

7. Range Resources Corporation (NYSE:RRC): Engages in the acquisition, exploration, and development of natural gas properties primarily in the Appalachian and southwestern regions of the United States. Market cap of $11.98B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Seeking Alpha. In Sep 2010: Reported EPS at 0.12 vs. estimate at 0.1 (surprise of 20%). In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.19 vs. estimate at 0.14 (surprise of 35.7%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.22 vs. estimate at 0.19 (surprise of 15.8%). In Jun 2011: Reported 0.27 vs. estimate at 0.19 (surprise of 42.1%). [Average earnings surprise at 28.4%]. The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 18.23% over the last week.

8. Monolithic Power Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:MPWR): Designs, develops, manufactures, and markets analog and mixed-signal semiconductors. Market cap of $391.60M. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from EE Times. In Sep 2010: Reported EPS at 0.43 vs. estimate at 0.42 (surprise of 2.4%). In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.18 vs. estimate at 0.14 (surprise of 28.6%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.13 vs. estimate at 0.11 (surprise of 18.2%). In Jun 2011: Reported 0.21 vs. estimate at 0.19 (surprise of 10.5%). [Average earnings surprise at 14.92%]. The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 6.27% over the last week.

9. Apollo Group Inc. (NASDAQ:APOL): Provides educational programs and services at the undergraduate, master's, and doctoral levels. Market cap of $5.97B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Wall St. Cheat. In Aug 2010: Reported EPS at 1.31 vs. estimate at 1.3 (surprise of 0.8%). In Nov 2010: Reported EPS at 1.63 vs. estimate at 1.35 (surprise of 20.7%). In Feb 2011: Reported EPS at 0.83 vs. estimate at 0.69 (surprise of 20.3%). In May 2011: Reported 1.45 vs. estimate at 1.34 (surprise of 8.2%). [Average earnings surprise at 12.5%]. The stock has gained 15.98% over the last year.

10. Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ALXN): Engages in the discovery, development, and commercialization of biologic therapeutic products in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Japan, and the Asia Pacific. Market cap of $12.31B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Minyanville. In Sep 2010: Reported EPS at 0.25 vs. estimate at 0.22 (surprise of 13.6%). In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.26 vs. estimate at 0.25 (surprise of 4%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.3 vs. estimate at 0.25 (surprise of 20%). In Jun 2011: Reported 0.29 vs. estimate at 0.27 (surprise of 7.4%). [Average earnings surprise at 11.25%]. The stock has gained 97.63% over the last year.

11. Symantec Corporation (NASDAQ:SYMC): Provides security, storage, and systems management solutions to secure and manage information. Market cap of $13.44B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Seeking Alpha. In Sep 2010: Reported EPS at 0.34 vs. estimate at 0.28 (surprise of 21.4%). In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.35 vs. estimate at 0.33 (surprise of 6.1%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.38 vs. estimate at 0.36 (surprise of 5.6%). In Jun 2011: Reported 0.4 vs. estimate at 0.37 (surprise of 8.1%). [Average earnings surprise at 10.3%]. The stock has gained 16.96% over the last year.

12. The Men's Wearhouse, Inc. (NYSE:MW): Operates as a specialty retailer of men's suits in the United States and Canada. Market cap of $1.44B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Seeking Alpha. In Oct 2010: Reported EPS at 0.57 vs. estimate at 0.48 (surprise of 18.7%). In Jan 2011: Reported EPS at -0.19 vs. estimate at -0.2 (surprise of 5%). In Apr 2011: Reported EPS at 0.53 vs. estimate at 0.49 (surprise of 8.2%). In Jul 2011: Reported 1.11 vs. estimate at 1.04 (surprise of 6.7%). [Average earnings surprise at 9.65%]. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 9.8% (equivalent to 5.6 days of average volume). The stock has gained 18.63% over the last year.

13. Avnet Inc. (NYSE:AVT): Distributes electronic components, enterprise computer and storage products, and embedded subsystems in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Market cap of $4.50B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Seeking Alpha. In Sep 2010: Reported EPS at 0.93 vs. estimate at 0.81 (surprise of 14.8%). In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 1.07 vs. estimate at 1.04 (surprise of 2.9%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 1.1 vs. estimate at 0.99 (surprise of 11.1%). In Jun 2011: Reported 1.22 vs. estimate at 1.15 (surprise of 6.1%). [Average earnings surprise at 8.72%]. The stock has gained 8.44% over the last year.

14. Jabil Circuit Inc. (NYSE:JBL): Provides electronic manufacturing services and solutions in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Market cap of $4.39B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Seeking Alpha. In Nov 2010: Reported EPS at 0.61 vs. estimate at 0.54 (surprise of 13%). In Feb 2011: Reported EPS at 0.54 vs. estimate at 0.51 (surprise of 5.9%). In May 2011: Reported EPS at 0.58 vs. estimate at 0.57 (surprise of 1.8%). In Aug 2011: Reported 0.62 vs. estimate at 0.56 (surprise of 10.7%). [Average earnings surprise at 7.85%]. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 2.03). Might be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.93, and P/FCF ratio at 14.21. The stock has had a good month, gaining 14.56%.

15. Dollar Tree, Inc. (NASDAQ:DLTR): Operates discount variety stores in the United States and Canada. Market cap of $9.78B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from CNN Money. In Oct 2010: Reported EPS at 0.73 vs. estimate at 0.62 (surprise of 17.7%). In Jan 2011: Reported EPS at 1.29 vs. estimate at 1.27 (surprise of 1.6%). In Apr 2011: Reported EPS at 0.82 vs. estimate at 0.75 (surprise of 9.3%). In Jul 2011: Reported 0.77 vs. estimate at 0.75 (surprise of 2.7%). [Average earnings surprise at 7.83%]. The stock has gained 59.79% over the last year.

16. Xerox Corp. (NYSE:XRX): Engages in the development, manufacture, marketing, service, and finance of document equipment, software, solutions, and services worldwide. Market cap of $10.79B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Seeking Alpha. In Sep 2010: Reported EPS at 0.22 vs. estimate at 0.21 (surprise of 4.8%). In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.29 vs. estimate at 0.28 (surprise of 3.6%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.23 vs. estimate at 0.22 (surprise of 4.5%). In Jun 2011: Reported 0.27 vs. estimate at 0.24 (surprise of 12.5%). [Average earnings surprise at 6.35%]. Might be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.67, and P/FCF ratio at 9.25. The stock has lost 28.47% over the last year.

17. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. (MHP): Provides various information services for financial, educational, and business information markets worldwide. Market cap of $13.33B. Takeover/LBO rumor sourced from Seeking Alpha. In Sep 2010: Reported EPS at 1.21 vs. estimate at 1.1 (surprise of 10%). In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.55 vs. estimate at 0.53 (surprise of 3.8%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.39 vs. estimate at 0.37 (surprise of 5.4%). In Jun 2011: Reported 0.68 vs. estimate at 0.66 (surprise of 3%). [Average earnings surprise at 5.55%]. The stock has gained 29.7% over the last year.

*EPS data sourced from Yahoo! Finance, all other data sourced from Finviz. To access the complete list of takeover targets, click here.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Source: 17 Takeover/LBO Targets With A History Of Earnings Surprises