Was this the Very Minute of Peak-Insanity in IPO Stocks?

Wolf Richter wolfstreet.com, www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter

Those who bet on the most obvious short in the history of mankind got the heads handed to them.

Every stock-market IPO cycle has this minute. And afterwards is all downhill. And I wish I could be the guy who’d correctly pinpoint the very moment when peak-insanity in IPO stocks occurs, down not only to the day, but the very minute, and then bet on it correctly. So maybe I won’t be that guy, given that I’ve been on record for years as to why I’m not shorting anything anymore in this crazy market. But I have a candidate for this pinpoint minute of peak-insanity: Today at 9:59 a.m. Eastern Time.

This was the minute that the shares of Beyond Meat [BYND] hit for a moment $186.43, giving this company a market capitalization of about $11 billion, billion with a B. This is not some monolithic monopolistic iconic corporation. It’s a small maker of fake-meat hamburgers and hotdogs with just $40 million in sales and $6.6 million in losses last quarter after 10 years in business – just small-company stuff. And it’s competing with a gaggle of other fake-meat hamburger makers.

The IPO price was $25, set on May 27, giving it a valuation of $1.5 billion, which was already nuts for a company of this minuscule size. The next day, the first trade took place just after noon, at $46, whereupon the price jumped, and shares closed at $65.75, giving it a market cap of nearly $4 billion. And it went from there. Friday, shares surged another 39%. Today until 9:59 a.m., shares surged another 34%.

From the IPO price to today at 9:59 a.m., in less than two weeks, shares soared by 645%. What is nuts is how much the value of this little-bitty company surged from an already nutty IPO valuation.

Beyond Meat is not a biotech company that has gotten FDA approval to sell its cure for cancer that it can flog for $10,000 per daily dose. This is just a fake-meat hamburger and hotdog maker with plenty of competition.

This is not to say there is no market for fake-meat hamburgers and hotdogs. History has proven time and again that, when bombarded with enough hype, marketing, and advertising, we will buy and eat anything.

And just for reference, this is what this burger is made of, instead of “beef,” according to Beyond Meat’s website:

Water, Pea Protein Isolate*, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Contains 2% or less of the following: Cellulose from Bamboo, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Salt, Sunflower Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Dried Yeast, Gum Arabic, Citrus Extract (to protect quality), Ascorbic Acid (to maintain color), Beet Juice Extract (for color), Acetic Acid, Succinic Acid, Modified Food Starch, Annatto (for color).

As you can see from the ingredients, of the 270 calories in this industrial product, 170 are from fat. But fresh peas have practically no fat and are absolutely delicious.

It’s nice to have a choice at the grocery store. And it’s good to get consumers to spend money. That keeps the economy rolling.

And the entire IPO razzmatazz has put this company on the map. Everyone is talking about it. The IPO and the surge of the shares afterwards was free propaganda. It’s all over the media. People who’d never heard of this small outfit before are now citing the CEO by name in locker rooms (happened to me). And it’s not even in a high-growth industry, but industrialized food, an industry that has near-zero growth rates.

So now we have a company that at 9:59 a.m. today was worth $11 billion.

From the first day of trading, it was the most obvious short in the history of mankind. It was so obvious that everyone shorted it. Short interest has been huge. And these shorts – including big guns like Citron Research’s Andrew Left – have gotten their heads handed to them.

Part of the insane 39% surge on Friday and the 34% surge this morning was short-seller panic, where they tried to close their short positions by buying the shares, and having to chase the share higher and higher as they skyrocketed, and each time a short seller desperately bid up the shares to close out the short position, it drove those shares even higher.

Volume today was huge, for a company this small. There are only about 60 million shares outstanding. On Friday, 23.9 million shares were traded. Of these trades, short volume accounted for 6 million shares, or 25% of total volume. Today, 24.7 million shares were traded.

BYND shorts lost $398 million just through Friday, according to research S3 Partners cited by CNBC. And they lost another bundle today. It was a monstrous short-covering panic. The costliest bet is the most obvious short in the history of mankind.

From 9:59 a.m. this morning through the close, shares dropped nearly 10% to close at $168.10. So that was a relief for short-sellers. But after the 34% jump this morning, shares still ended the day up 21%.

It is this kind of head-scratcher that forms the ideal candidate for pinpointing the very minute of peak-insanity. This is the craziest IPO in at least a decade. But this is not to say that something even crazier won’t come along, and everyone jumps on the bandwagon for a while to drive it up into the stratosphere before it comes unwound, with the usual suspects as bag-holders. But this generally doesn’t happen until after enough shorts have been taken out the back and shot just before that peak-insanity minute.

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