Expanding its move into the credit-ratings business, Morningstar on March 19 purchased Realpoint, which specializes in structured finance, for $52 million in cash and stock. Realpoint had revenue of approximately $12 million in 2009. Morningstar expects to complete the transaction in the next few months.

The purchase of Realpoint builds on Morningstar’s announcement in December that it was moving into the business of credit ratings and shows that Morningstar believes independent investment research is a burgeoning market.

Joe Mansueto, chairman and chief executive officer of Morningstar, said in a statement that there was a “strong demand for unbiased ratings and research in the structured credit market, and we think the time is ripe to bring more competition to this market.”

Realpoint currently offers securities ratings, research, surveillance services and data to help institutional investors identify credit risk in commercial mortgage-backed securities.

For more on Morningstar’s purchase of Realpoint click here.

For more on Morningstar’s entry into the credit ratings business, please click here.