Beyond Meat whets investor appetite as shares soar in market debut

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Shares started trading at $46 soon after noon and were briefly halted due to volatility. They traded up to 72 USA dollars during the day, before closing at 65.75.

In the IPO, the company sold 9.5 million shares to raise at least $240 million.

The company had raised its price target range from $19 to $21 a share on Tuesday to $23 to $25, suggesting strong investor demand. Money from the listing will give the California company enough firepower to compete with its other rivals, like Silicon Valley start-up Impossible Foods.

Beyond Meat founder and Chief Executive Ethan Brown told Reuters on Thursday the proceeds would be used to expand marketing efforts, develop new products, establish production centres in Europe and Asia and open additional manufacturing facilities in the United States. It avoids terms such as vegan or vegetarian and instead displays its products in the meat case of supermarkets.

The company is the first publicly listed plant-based meat substitute manufacturer, an industry that is now steadily growing in popularity across the country.

Beyond Meat's plant-based patties and sausages could be particularly useful for meat-lovers who are trying to eat healthier and those who are suffering from illnesses that would otherwise prevent them from eating too much meat.

The firm's meats-less burger patties, as well as its other imitation meat products, have found their way into major supermarkets and restaurant across the country.

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The company's valuation in its IPO is "entirely reasonable if it's got internationalisable potential and a great product, and has capacity to make money in its core profit structure", said Robert Lawson, chief executive officer of London-based Food Strategy Associates.

"We understand the composition of meat, we understand the architecture and year after year we collapse the gaps between our product and animal protein", he said. Tyson's shares were sold both to insiders and new shareholders, Mr Brown said.

Tyson Foods Inc, the no. 1 USA meat processor, owned a 6.5 percent stake in Beyond Meat, but last week said it sold its investment in the vegan burger maker, as it looks to develop its own line of alternative protein products. The Beyond Burger product accounted for most of its sales previous year.

Earlier this year, Beyond Meat announced a deal with Carl's Jr.to offer its Beyond Burger patty, a GMO-, gluten- and soy-free meat substitute made from pea protein.

With vegans and vegetarians representing less than 5% of the US population, the company has been aiming the Beyond Burger at meat-loving consumers, requesting, for example, that the product be sold in the meat case at grocery retailers.

The company lost $29.9 million in 2018, $30.4 million in 2017, and $25.1 million in 2016 as it "invested in innovation and growth".

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