Analysts at Wells Fargo see plenty of growth opportunities for imitation-meat pioneer Beyond Meat (BYND -2.70%), but the stock is just too expensive to recommend.
John Baumgartner of Wells Fargo initiated Beyond Meat stock at "market perform" on Monday, slapping a $125 price target on it. Shares of the plant-based meat company had slumped 4.1% by 10 a.m. EDT, bringing the stock price close to that target.
The lack of optimism from the Wells Fargo analyst stems from competitive pressures and a general lack of visibility. Baumgartner expects the plant-based meat category to expand as consumers shift away from meat due to health, environmental, and animal welfare concerns, and he sees Beyond Meat as well positioned to tap into that growth. But the stock already reflects that growth opportunity, in his opinion.
Baumgartner sees more competition on the way from both private-label products like Kroger's plant-based Simple Truth line and new brands from major food companies. His recommendation is to wait to see how the competitive landscape shakes out before investing in Beyond Meat.
Beyond Meat is currently valued at about $7.5 billion, more than 30 times the company's revenue guidance for 2019. That's a stratospheric valuation for a processed food company facing an onslaught of copycat products.
On top of increased competition, the narrative around Beyond Meat's products is starting to take body blows. A series of papers recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found only weak and uncertain evidence that red meat is linked to bad health outcomes. Those findings put the health argument for Beyond Meat's heavily processed products on the ropes.
Beyond Meat may eventually be able to grow into its valuation, but that's far from a guarantee. If the company's growth falls short of what's already priced into the stock, look out below.