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2 Great Stocks You've Never Heard Of

By Dave Kovaleski - Updated Mar 17, 2021 at 11:43AM

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And if you have heard of them, then you know that they are positioned to produce solid returns.

The tried-and-true stocks that have performed well through all market cycles -- you know the names -- are foundations for any portfolio. Then you have the highfliers that regularly appear on Robinhood's most wanted list and have made quite a name for themselves among investors.

But the market is filled with good stocks that haven't gotten the same recognition -- but should. Here are two that most investors have probably never heard of but should get to know: Moelis (MC 2.16%) and Tradeweb Markets (TW 3.04%).

Moelis, up 20% in 2021

Moelis is that stock that accidentally pops up when you mistakenly type in the ticker "MC" looking for Mastercard. But instead of shuffling off to find the payments giant, take a closer look at this Wall Street investment bank. Moelis, founded in 2007 by Ken Moelis, returned 62% in 2020 and is up about 20% this year at Wednesday morning's prices.

A woman looking confused

Image source: Getty Images.

Moelis had a record year in 2020, with revenue up 26% to $943 million. Most of that growth came in the fourth quarter, when the advisory services specialist oversaw the highest number of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) deals in its history and revenue climbed 89% to $422 million. Net income was up 490% in the fourth quarter year over year to $155 million and up 61% for the full year to $218 million. For the full year, Moelis had a near-record year in M&A deals, despite the overall soft market, and record numbers in both the restructuring and capital markets businesses.

Moelis is a smaller player in this very competitive space, but it sees its people, relationships, and ability to execute among its key competitive advantages. The company added 21 managing directors since the beginning of 2020 -- 13 last year and eight this year -- to bulk up and expand its advisory capabilities in different regions and sectors.

The company is extremely efficient, with an operating margin of 28% and a return on equity of 52%. Its financials are also glittering, with no debt and $375 million in cash and cash equivalents. And the stock is pretty fairly valued, with a price-to-earnings ratio around 18.

Coming off the record-breaking fourth quarter, CEO and founder Ken Moelis said on the fourth-quarter earnings call that the company has its highest backlog ever in 2021 and is optimistic, given the new hires and expected upturn in M&A activity. Investors should give it a look.

Tradeweb Markets, up 20% in 2021

Tradeweb Markets provides an electronic trading platform for banks, asset managers, pension funds, and other institutional investors, so you can guess why it hasn't captured investors' attention. But after another solid year in 2020 and a 35% gain for investors, it belongs on your radar.

Tradeweb runs one of the largest electronic fixed-income marketplaces in the world, along with MarketAxess Holdings, in a very small pool of competitors. It offers trading in 40 different products across the spectrum of mostly fixed-income investments, with an average of $898 billion in trading volume moving across the platform daily in the fourth quarter. It also has a growing equity trading business, led by exchange-traded fund trading.

Revenue grew 15% in 2020, while net income climbed 16%. It was the 21st straight year of rising revenue for the company. That growth was buoyed by market volatility, as well as the overall surge in electronic trading accelerated by the pandemic. That trend shows no signs of slowing down, as Tradeweb reported a record $1.1 trillion in average daily volume in February, a year-over-year increase of 19.9%.

"At some point a string of volume records becomes evidence of a more sustained shift toward electronic trading, and to me it feels like we're reaching that point," said Lee Olesky, Tradeweb's CEO. "Across our platform, clients are leveraging electronic tools and protocols they may not have utilized in the past." 

This bodes well for Tradeweb. The stock price is up about 20% year to date, and the company is well-positioned for continued success, as global debt issuance is expected to spike following the pandemic and electronic trading platforms are anticipated to become increasingly popular.

Like Moelis, Tradeweb is very efficient, with an operating margin of 29% and a profit margin of 18%. Its forward price-to-earnings ratio of 50 is fairly high, but with this company's earnings power, its track record of increasing revenue, and its market-leading position, it's a grower.

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Stocks Mentioned

Moelis & Company Stock Quote
Moelis & Company
$46.81 (2.16%) $0.99
Mastercard Incorporated Stock Quote
Mastercard Incorporated
$357.78 (2.25%) $7.89
MarketAxess Holdings Inc. Stock Quote
MarketAxess Holdings Inc.
$287.89 (2.04%) $5.77
Tradeweb Markets Inc. Stock Quote
Tradeweb Markets Inc.
$68.90 (3.04%) $2.03

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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