Georg Fortinger was amazed when he checked his online depot on Saturday morning as he did every morning. “I almost spilled my breakfast coffee, I got richer overnight,” he says. Fortinger, whose name is actually different, owns 14 shares in the American technology company Apple. At the close of trading on Friday evening, each of them was worth around 420 euros, so that the total value in the depot was 5880 euros. But then, on Saturday morning, the number of shares suddenly amounted to 56 shares in a strange way, which hit the books at 23,520 euros.
“300 percent increase overnight, Bitcoin hardly manages that,” jokes Fortinger. “Apple shares are doing great, but that seemed too good to be true.” So he called his direct bank and asked how the miraculous increase in money had come about. The advisor on the phone was friendly but was hearing about the incident for the first time. He inquired while Fortinger was on hold and after a short time had a comprehensible explanation ready.
The investor learned that Apple’s share split was to blame. Because next Monday, August 31, one old share of the tech giant will be four new ones. Fortinger will actually own 56 instead of 14 shares, only that each one then has a quarter of its previous value. The account booking of the fourfold stock took place already on Friday – wrongly still at the old unit price. “This is due to the computer system and shouldn’t actually happen,” the bank employee apologized. The bug will be fixed over the weekend.
Half-jokingly, Fortinger asked if he could sell his 56 shares quickly at the old price to make money. But that was not possible, he was told, because trading would not resume until Monday – at the new, reduced unit price.
The private investor takes it calmly, even without any trickery, he has done well with Apple: Within five years, the price of his shares has more than quadrupled. The increase has been 60 percent since the beginning of the year alone. Fortinger does not have any Tesla shares, which is why he does not know whether something similarly bizarre would have happened in his depot as with the iPhone manufacturer. Because Tesla also wants to split its shares into smaller pieces in the coming week.
The justification for the capital market measures is that the company shares can be made accessible to a broader group of investors by making them cheaper. For Apple it is already the fifth share split: in 1987, 2000 and 2005 its shareholders received two shares for each security held. In 2014, every title became seven stocks.