Wires

UPDATE 1-Beyond Meat butchered as stock sale ban lifted

Nivedita Balu

(Updates to open, adds analyst comments)

Oct 29 (Reuters) - Shares of Beyond Meat Inc plunged more than 20% on Tuesday as a lock-up period for early backers ended, freeing them up to cash in on their investments after results pointed to rising costs at the hugely popular plant-based meat producer.

A surge in interest in plant-based burgers, sausages and other meat-lookalikes this year has spurred a doubling in value of the Los Angeles-based company since its stock market launch in May.

However, the restrictions on selling nearly 80% of the company's outstanding shares ended on Monday, and analysts said expectations that some investors would lock in profits were weighing on the stock.

Along with Monday's results release, the company announced the departure of venture capital specialist Gregory Bohlen from its board after more than six years with the company.

"Approximately 3/4 of the shares come unlocked today, as many observers of Beyond Meat are aware. What is less apparent, though, is the number of shareholders willing to sell with the stock down well over 50% from its high," J.P. Morgan analyst Ken Goldman said.

"Either way, putting the lock-up expiry in the past ultimately should incent some investors to start buying the stock again, though the shares could fade lower beforehand."

At their peak in July, Beyond Meat shares had risen five-fold in value from their debut price of $46 in early May. The stock has since retreated, and closed at $105.41 on Monday, valuing the company at $6.38 billion.

The shares fell as much as 24% to $80.10 on Tuesday - their lowest since May 24, just three weeks after the IPO.

The vegan burger maker posted its first ever profit on Monday and raised its full-year sales forecast, but also said it would need to offer more discounts as competition heats up.

At least three Wall Street analysts cut their price target on the stock after the results, with J.P. Morgan's Goldman reducing his target to $138 from $189.

Of the 12 analysts who cover Beyond Meat, eight rate it "hold", two "sell" and two now suggest buying its shares.

"The big questions in the near term seem to be how much pressure the stock might come under as the lock-up period expires," Bernstein analyst Alexia Howard wrote.

Howard also raised doubts on whether the company could scale to a national level with its partnership with McDonald's Corp , the world's largest burger chain, which is testing its vegan burger in Canada.

At least 43% of the company's float were shorted as of Oct. 25, data from financial analytics firm S3 Partners showed. (Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)