Medical equipment and supply company Covidien plc (NYSE: COV) shone when it came to dealmaking throughout 2012, despite the overall lull in activity engulfing even the most acquisitive middle-market companies. The Dublin-based buyer, with U.S. headquarters in Mansfield, Mass., coupled its extensive research and development (R&D) efforts with aggressive dealmaking, netting half a dozen acquisitions in fast-growing categories.

Covidien achieved this during a year when most strategic buyers were relatively quiet. For example, the maximum tally of deals for a company shopping in the price range of $1.2 billion or less in any sector was about 10, a far cry from the volume we've seen among past winners in this category. Rather than recognizing volume, our award honors Covidien for displaying innovation and aggressiveness.

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