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Rising (Morning)star

Shares of the well-known fund rater fly out of the starting gate. Too late to buy?

Morningstar Inc. is one growth stock you won't find rated on the company's popular investing Web site. Too bad. Since going public in May 2005, shares of the Chicago-based investment-research firm have more than doubled and are now worth $1.7 billion. Not too shabby for what began in the mid 1980s as a mutual fund guide published from the apartment of founder Joe Mansueto.

Best known for its ratings of funds, Morningstar now offers products and services for advisers and institutions. It's also moved into money management. In March, it bought Ibbotson Associates, a Chicago research firm that also manages money. That adds $4.3 billion to the $285 million Morningstar had in managed retirement accounts before it acquired Ibbotson.

Morningstar aims to create a global research empire, and already has footholds in Asia, Australia and Europe. "More than half of the world's investable assets are outside the U.S.," says chairman and chief executive Mansueto, 49.

The run-up in Morningstar's stock is not surprising. Revenues rose 26% last year, to $227 million, and earnings more than tripled, to $31 million, or 70 cents a share. At $41, the stock trades at 40 times the $1.01 per share that Marvin Loh, of DE Investment Research, expects Morningstar to earn this year. Loh, the only analyst to follow the company, rates the stock neutral because of the rich price. To put it in terms that Morningstar uses in its own reports: Consider buying at $30.