15. Visa (V)
Company profile: Visa, with a market value of $95 billion, manages a group of global payment card brands, which it licenses to financial institutions that issue cards to their customers. It acts as the payment processor.
Investor takeaway: Visa's shares are up 15% this year and have a three-year 28% annualized return. Analysts give its shares 18 "buy" ratings, 10 "buy/holds," and eight "holds." They project earnings of $5.95 this year, growing to $6.95 in 2013. Institutional investors own 56% of its shares.
14. Whole Foods (WFM)Company profile: Whole Foods, with a $15 billion market value, is the largest U.S. retailer of natural and organic foods, with about 300 stores in the U.S., as well as in Canada and the U.K. Investor takeaway: Whole Foods' shares are up 16% this year and have a three-year annualized return of 85%. Analysts give its shares nine "buy" ratings, five "buy/holds," and nine "holds," according to S&P, which gives it its "strong buy" rating. Those same analysts project earnings of $2.33 per share this year and that they will grow by 15% next year. 13. Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN) Company profile: Alexion Pharmaceuticals specializes in the development and marketing of drugs for life-threatening medical conditions, including cancer. Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 16.7% this year and have a three-year annualized return of 64%. Analysts give its shares 1 "buy" ratings, six "buy/holds," seven "holds," and one "weak hold," according to S&P. Fidelity owns 11.5% of Alexion's shares, by far the largest stake. 12. Red Hat (RHT ) Company profile: Red Hat, with a $10 billion market value, is a leading provider of distribution and support for open-source operating systems and middleware, including most prominently, Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Investor takeaway: Red Hat's shares are up 18% this year and have a three-year annualized return of 50%. Analysts give its shares nine "buy" ratings, eight "buy/holds," seven "holds," two "weak holds," and one "sell," according to S&P, which has the shares rated "hold." 11. Trimble Navigation (TRMB) Company profile: Trimble Navigation, with a $6.3 billion market value, sells advanced global-satellite positioning instruments to government and commercial customers worldwide. They are used in surveying, vehicle navigation systems, mapping equipment, and instruments sold to the agricultural, military, aviation, and construction industries. Investor takeaway: Trimble Navigation's shares are up 18% this year and have a three-year annualized return of 54%. Analysts give its shares five "buy" ratings, four "buy/holds," and five "holds," according to S&P. S&P has the stock rated "hold," on valuation concerns and a view that demand may be slowing in the near term.
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