Thompson Reuters

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Thompson Reuters ( TRI) has managed to keep pace with the broad market in 2013. That shouldn't come as a huge surprise -- as one of the major financial data providers in the world, TRI's fortunes ebb and flow with those of Wall Street. While Thomson Reuters may be best known for its news service, more than half of the business is actually its markets data platforms, which license data to financial professionals through pricey subscriptions.

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TRI is proof that being the second-tier player can be quite lucrative. While more standardized rivals like Bloomberg have become Wall Street staples (with extremely high levels of customer stickiness), Thompson Reuters has done a good job of making a case for licensing both platforms, not just one or the other. The company also has a significant non-investment business, providing legal, scientific and health care data to professionals in those respective fields. For all intents and purposes, investors should assume that this business has the exact same upside and challenges as the markets division.

On the financial side of things, TRI sports a solid balance sheet with a manageable net debt position. That balance sheet has been a key element of the firm's growth in the last few years, as acquisitions have been the lynchpin of the firm's strategy. As long as the firm continue to acquire key proprietary "must-have" platforms, it should continue to drive top-line growth among its existing base. If it can consolidate those platforms into a single high-end product, then it stands a chance at grabbing the industry's number-one spot.

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