The return of the blockbuster

Thermo Fisher CEO Marc Casper

The year's unquestioned headliner is Thermo Fisher's ($TMO) $13.6 billion agreement to acquire Life Technologies ($LIFE), the result of a months-long slog of hints and allegations, in which suitors like Roche ($RHHBY), Sigma-Aldrich and a bevy of private equity giants all reportedly cast bids on the sequencing outfit. Thermo's also on the line for $2.2 billion of Life's outstanding debt, and the company is still raising cash to complete the sale, which it expects to close early next year.

It's a similar story for Bausch + Lomb, which Valeant ($VRX) will scoop up for $8.7 billion in a deal announced last month. Warburg Pincus, Bausch's former owner, trudged through a protracted sources-say process before convincing Valeant, first said to ask for $10 billion for its eye-care heavyweight and then getting the IPO ball rolling after bids came in too low. Valeant figures it will close the deal next quarter, predicting combined 2013 revenue of $3.5 billion and at least $800 million in annual savings.

Valeant CEO J. Michael Pearson

Rounding out 2013's billion-dollar club are Baxter ($BAX), which is in the midst of closing a $4 billion buyout of Gambro that will vault it to No. 1 among the world's dialysis device providers, and Bayer, which this month closed a $1.1 billion deal for birth-control-device outfit Conceptus.

Last year, only Hologic ($HOLX), Agilent ($A) and Roper crossed the billion-dollar mark, and, notably, each of those deals was diagnostics-focused. Whether the spike in high-dollar device buyouts is due to tax-softened asking prices, long-held expansion plans or favorable currency trends is impossible to say, but, if its first 6 months are any indication, 2013 is likely to unfurl into a much bigger year for dealmaking than 2012.

The return of the blockbuster