Aspen Technology helps some of the most capital-intensive industries optimize asset performance via process modeling, big data machine learning, and analytics, and its very own asset-light operations help it generate impressive levels of free cash flow. Shares aren’t cheap, however (it is trading above our fair value estimate range), and current price levels imply one hefty price-to-earnings ratio. Still, it’s hard not to like Aspen Technology’s high-ROIC business model, with the company garnering one of the highest Economic Castle ratings in our coverage. IPG Photonics is home to an impressive portfolio of high-performance fiber lasers and similar technologies that are used in materials processing, advanced communications, and medical applications--areas and applications that are expected to experience strong growth in coming years. We think IPG Photonics’ degree of vertical integration, IP portfolio, and process expertise offer it a number of competitive advantages. The company boasts a GAAP operating margin in the mid-30s and has generated impressive free cash flow expansion in recent years, but shares aren’t cheap either (it is trading at the high end of our fair value estimate range). Customer concentration and expansion into unproven markets add a layer of risk.
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