One of the most exciting things as an investor is when you wake up one morning and hear the news that a company you own has agreed to be purchased by a competitor.

Not only do you get the inevitable price bump of anywhere from 20-50%, but there’s also the opportunity to invest in something new. And besides, it sure is nice when somebody else validates your decision that the company was a good buy in the first place.

That said, it’s silly for investors to invest in a company just because they’re convinced it’ll get taken over at some point in the future. Many things can affect a potential takeover, causing a suitor to pause even if the deal makes sense. A potential takeover can only be part of the thesis for investing in something. It’s just too risky to speculate on the takeover alone.

And to make matters more complicated, other investors can often bid up the shares of companies they think are on the verge of being taken out. This leads to higher valuations than peers, which makes the company even less attractive.

Still, there are opportunities out there in companies that look likely to be acquired. Here are three I think are particularly interesting.

Manitoba Telecom

Although this company is often forgotten when investors think of the sector, there are a few things that are attractive about Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. (TSX:MBT).

The company has an underrated moat in its home province. Despite competition from the giants in the sector, it has managed to maintain a dominant market share in Manitoba. Shares also trade at a reasonable valuation, and the company pays a sustainable 4.6% yield. It recently cut the dividend, not because it couldn’t afford the elevated payment, but to divert some of the cash into its underfunded pension program.

The big catalyst for being acquired will be when the company finally sells its troubled Allstream division. Once that happens, the company will be a pure-play telecom, which will make it very attractive to a company like Telus.

Jean Coutu

During 2014 and 2013, respectively, Loblaw Companies and Empire Company made transformative acquisitions. Loblaw spent more than $12 billion snapping up Shoppers Drug Mart and Empire spent $5.8 billion to buy Safeway’s western Canada operations.

Left out of the party was Canada’s third-largest grocer, Metro. Ever since, rumours have been swirling about its intention to keep up with rivals.

The logical target is Le Groupe Jean Coutu PJC Inc. (TSX:PJC.A), Quebec’s biggest pharmacy chain. Not only does Jean Coutu make geographical sense, but it also operates in a sector with great long-term potential growth. Metro is also notoriously weak in pharmacy sales, ironically because of Coutu’s dominance.

Plus, Coutu’s namesake founder is almost 90. At this point in his life, it might be more attractive for him to just take the money a buyout would bring.

Penn West Petroleum

Many of the problems plaguing Penn West Petroleum Ltd. (TSX:PWT)(NYSE:PWE) would go away if it was acquired by a suitor with deeper pockets.

These days, with crude sinking again back below $55 per barrel, Penn West is in the precarious position of having to sell off assets to pay debt into a market where nobody is willing to pay top dollar. That’s not the recipe for long-term success.

But if the company was taken over by one of the giants in the industry, it could slowly work through its problems without the added scrutiny of negotiating to lenders or reporting to shareholders. Management is doing many things right, including focusing drilling on three targeted areas, focusing on cutting costs, and cutting capital expenditures to conserve cash. Really, all it needs is for crude to recover.

And there lies the crux of investing in Penn West. If crude recovers, shares will do incredibly well. If it doesn’t, there’s a real risk of bankruptcy. For a company with the ability to cover the debt, and with a long-term view, picking up Penn West at today’s fire sale prices makes all sorts of sense.

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Fool contributor Nelson Smith owns shares of PENN WEST PETROLEUM LTD.