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Have Dealmakers Wised Up?

By David Henry

STINGIER OFFERS. So far, investors like what they're seeing. SBC shares held their own as news leaked that it was looking to buy AT&T. MetLife stock slipped just a half of 1 percent when it said it was buying Travelers. And when Johnson & Johnson (JNJ ) said on Dec. 16 that it was paying $25 billion for medical-device maker Guidant (GDT ), its shares rose 4%.

The big reason investors aren't hammering buyers' stocks: Most acquirers have become cautious about not overpaying. Gone are the the 30% to 40% premiums regularly paid in the past, much less the 50%-plus premiums that were common in 1999 and 2000. SBC offered AT&T virtually no premium over its market price, while Exelon (EXC ) paid just a 16% premium for Public Service Enterprise Group (

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