Could there be a more perfect listed company? In six key characteristics:

1. operates as a virtual duopoly, in a fully consolidated, hyper-regulated market with insurmountable barriers to entry.

2. Takes full advantage of the famous "network effect" competitive advantage that makes its platform simply impossible to circumvent.

3. Over the last decade, sales have grown at an average rate of 9.5% a year, and profits at an average rate of 13% a year.

4. Develops a remarkably low-capital-intensity business, generating huge mountains of cash flow to be returned to shareholders.

5. Through sustained share buy-backs, has reduced the number of shares outstanding by one-fifth in ten years, so that earnings per share are growing at an annual rate of 14.2%.

6. Operating margins close to 60% and a return on equity close to 50% without recourse to leverage.

Since the great financial crisis of 2008, Visa has traded at an average valuation of twenty-five times earnings. This is more or less the level at which the stock is currently trading.

During a brief eighteen-month window between 2010 and 2011, the stock's valuation had fallen to a low - never since touched - of fifteen times earnings. This historic opportunity among very large caps, despite being followed by legions of analysts, meant that shareholders who had the presence of mind to seize it multiplied their capital by thirteen, not even counting dividends.

While they may not be among the lucky few, today's investors can learn from this textbook case, and bear in mind that, in the stock market as elsewhere, quality comes at a price. In the same spirit, we underlined this yesterday in the light of Hermès' results.