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You’ve heard of these dominant companies. You probably even own some.

And why not, a company that dominates a market segment makes more money than the #2 or #3 company struggling in its dust.

For example, Cisco Systems (CSCO) owns 70% of the market for Ethernet switches, a key building block in computer networks. Its nearest competitor Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) has a 5% share. In routers, another essential network component, Cisco enjoys a greater than 50% share. Together with competitor Juniper Networks (JNPR) the company controls 95% of the router market.

You can name other dominant companies off the top of your head. Apple (AAPL) in MP3 players where the company has better than 70% of the market with its iPod lineup. Google (GOOG) with a similar share of the Internet search market.

And dominant companies aren’t limited to the technology sector. For example, Am Bev (ABV) owns about 70% of the Brazilian beer market.

But how about market dominators that you’ve never heard of?

The same economics apply: The top company in a sector makes the bulk of the sector’s profits and shows the sector’s highest margins.

And the stock of a market dominator that you’ve never heard of—or haven’t heard of yet—has this added advantage: It’s usually much cheaper than the shares of a market dominator that everyone knows.

So how about three market dominators that you haven’t heard of? Interested?

Aixtron (AIXG). This relatively small (market capitalization $2.4 billion and trailing 12-month sales $495 million) company dominates the global market for MOCVD reactors with a 70% market share. (Veeco Instruments (VECO) is #2.) What’s a MOCVD reactor?  Metal Organic Chemical Vapor Deposition is a technique for depositing thin layers of atoms onto a semiconductor wafer. To make? Well, the product that I’m interested in is LEDs. Using MOCVD an LED maker can build up a precise range of layers with very specific optical and electrical properties such as the layers of LED (light-emitting diodes) that are used to backlight LCD TVs. Sales of LCD TVs with LED backlighting are projected to hit 50 million in 2010 and 75 million in 2011. About 400 MOCVD reactors will be purchased by LED makers over the next two to three years, projects the Garson Lehman Group. At $2.5 million each that’s roughly $1 billion from this market segment alone.

ASM Lithography (ASML). The company is only the third largest supplier of semiconductor manufacturing equipment in the world, but, according to Standard & Poor’s it has a 65% share of the market for lithography equipment. (That may have grown to as much as 80% of the market during the economic downturn. It remains to be seen how much of that extra market share ASM can hang onto.) Advances in lithography tools, which use a light source to create circuit patterns on a silicon wafer, are the key to packing more and more circuits ever more densely onto smaller and smaller chips. Lithography tools make up about 15% to 20% of capital spending at chipmakers. ASM started shipping new equipment for the next generation of even smaller chips in 2008. Pre-production units based on a new technology called extreme ultra-violet light (EUV) will ship late this year with full-scale production in 2012. Wall Street analysts say that the new EUV products give ASML roughly a two-year lead on its main rivals Nikon (NINOY.PK) and Canon (CAJ).

Joy Global (JOYG). If you only remember the mining and commodities boom of 2003 through 2008, you only know part of the story. For years before that the shares of this mining equipment maker went nowhere. The stock traded at $7.84 on August 13, 2001 and at $7.89 on October 13, 2003. And before that the company went through bankruptcy reorganization in 1999 because nobody in the mining business made any money for a decade and more. And when miners aren’t making money they’re not buying mining equipment. If you’re one of the survivors in a viciously cyclical industry like this one, however, you crawl off the bottom to discover that you have far fewer competitors than you had before the industry cratered. That’s what happened to Joy Global. The company now has approximately 60% of the mining equipment market. (I say approximately because both the global mining and the global mining equipment industry are extremely volatile these days with players coming and going.) About 45% of the company’s sales come from the United States and the company’s biggest challenge over the next decade will be penetrating the mining sector of developing economies and then keeping market share in the face of increasingly intense local competition. So far Joy Global has been able to pick up market share in China, for example, by buying small local equipment makers but there’s certainly no guarantee that will continue to work as a strategy. One offsetting advantage, though, is that every initial sale provides a very steady stream of after-sale revenue from maintenance and parts orders. About 55% of Joy Global’s revenue comes from such after-sale sources.

Global stocks seem to be locked into a downturn at the moment and I’d certainly wait for some indication that the markets have turned. But these certainly are worth adding to your watch list. You’ll find mine, revised big time on June 8, at To see why I dropped what I dropped and added what I added check out my 8:30 a.m. post on June 8.

Full disclosure: I own shares of AmBev, ASM Lithography, and Cisco Systems in my personal portfolio.