At the beginning of the year it is interesting to attempt to make predictions about the large deals that may excite and intrigue the market. 2016 is no exception, and there have already been a range of candidates named as possible targets or partners for acquisition or merger activity.

Here are some of the most likely, and the reasons they may be attractive to those looking to make a deal.

Ardent Leisure Group (ASX: AAD) is a stock that is front and centre of the new boom in the Australian economy: tourism. The falling Australian dollar has once again made the country an attractive destination for international travellers, while it has also added a level of domestic bias to our travel plans as our spending power overseas is curtailed.

Ardent Leisure owns a portfolio of hard to replicate assets exposed to the Australian tourism sector, including Dreamworld, WhiteWater World, marinas and the viewing deck on the Q1 tower on the Gold Coast.

There is also a large exposure to the recovering US economy through the strong position the company has built through its family focussed Main Event entertainment centres.

Exposure to two strong western economies in two attractive sectors with the potential for multi-year earnings growth makes Ardent a very attractive proposition for an international player with experience in the sector.

Oil Search Limited (ASX: OSH) was subject to a multi-billion dollar takeover offer from Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX: WPL) in 2015. However, the board chose not to recommend the offer, and Oil Search is still trading on the ASX.

However, history has proven that times of falling commodity prices are a trigger for mergers and acquisitions activity, and the oil price is at historic lows. Oil Search retains all of the qualities that made it an enticing prospect for Woodside, and a larger, more aggressive international player could well come knocking in 2016.

Tabcorp Holdings Limited (ASX: TAH) and Tatts Group Limited (ASX: TTS) are two operators in the gambling and wagering industry that are strongly threatened by the increased penetration of smartphones, tablets and the internet betting that they allow. Sportsbet, Sportingbet and Betfair, along with many others, have proved formidable at taking market share from established incumbents, and as with all industries, the migration to digital will continue.

A tie-up between the two old stalwarts of the industry could allow the merged entity to redirect spending more efficiently to develop a stronger and more competitive online offering, while still leveraging the large installed base of legacy assets that both companies own.

Of these companies, Ardent Leisure is the best positioned business as it currently stands that also has the added possibility of corporate activity to fuel its share price in 2016.

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Motley Fool contributor Ry Padarath has no position in any stocks mentioned. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.