A GREAT DAY ON THE MARKET

For the first time since sometime in 2006, I don’t own any shares in Electronic Arts. I sold them all this morning. Over the years I’ve accumulated the shares through either the ESPP program, which allows me to buy shares at a discount, or through annual vesting of stock awards, which are free shares (taxes notwithstanding).

The ESPP shares never really were big money makers for me. Because of bad timing, the best return I’ve had for selling those have been maybe 15%. At worst, I broke even on some of them. The jewel in my portfolio were the stock award shares, the ones that were just gifted to me. I’ve held onto them all these years, some shares going back a decade now. I was patient with them. I didn’t sell when the economy went south in 2008. I didn’t even sell them when I bought my apartment and I need money for a down payment. I held onto them because I believed the share price would rally, even from the dark days of July 2012, when it threatened go below $10 at one point.

Perhaps it was dumb luck rather anything smart on my part but I was right. The stock hit the mid-70s in October, the highest it’s been in the history of the company. I probably should have sold then but I was greedy and thought that I should wait until after the quarter where Star Wars: Battlefront was included. Of course, that was a terrible idea. You can read about it here.

So as the stock got mired in the 60s for most of the new year, I waited until the quarterly results were announced this Tuesday. I honestly didn’t know what to expect or how Wall Street would react. My expectation was that the news would not be good. The last quarter didn’t have a big blockbuster title, just two smaller ones, the game I worked on and UFC. I didn’t even bother checking the financial sites in the afternoon.

Things changed when a friend of mine who still works at EA texted me. He told me that the share price was way up in after-hours trading. I immediately jumped online to figure what the earnings report look like. It turns out the last quarter was actually a pretty damn good one. Beating Wall Street estimates is always a good thing.

At this point, the after-hours price had jumped about $6 to just over $70. I was thrilled. This was it. I decided I wasn’t going to wait any longer. It was time to get rid of these shares and cash in. Maybe I would sell it at the historical high share price but it would be pretty damn close.

Since it was after-hours, I had some decisions to make. I could easily just log on and request a sell order at market price and my shares would be sold at whatever price it would be once the bell rung the next morning in New York. That seemed risky though since I wouldn’t be able to predict what the opening price would be. At a minimum I wanted to sell it for no less than $70.

The more investor savvy amongst you are probably asking why I just didn’t make a limit sell order for $70. I didn’t because I got greedy. I had a feeling there was a strong chance the opening bell would ring and the share price would just continue to rocket past $70 and keep on going up. So the magic question was, what number do I choose? $80? $75? I thought $80 was unrealistic. There was very little chance that it could go from $64 to $80 in one day. I then settled for $75 but then I thought I was greedy. I paused for a second and then put in $74. It was a good compromise. After a few more clicks it was done.

I thought about staying awake for the market open but I was really tired and the limit order was there so I didn’t have to keep an eye on a chart every minute. So I slept. I was sleeping as the market opened and the price started at $70 and kept going up. For some reason, I woke up way before I really needed to. Maybe I was too excited. I looked at the clock and realized the market had been open about 20 minutes. I checked my phone. I had no new e-mails, which meant the limit order hadn’t been executed, which meant the stock price hadn’t reached $74 yet.

Obviously curious, I pulled up the real-time data. The price hovered between $73 and $74 as the minutes ticked away. It did this for several minutes as it went tantalizing close to $74. At one point, I realized it was going to happen. It would be breach $74 and the order would execute. In the next minute it did exactly that as the price barely nosed into $74 territory. Like it was on schedule, an e-mail arrived on my phone from the broker.

At that moment I had sold all my EA shares. I also became very aware that I should no longer look at the real-time share price. It didn’t matter anymore. I was no longer a shareholder. It could have went to $100 the next hour and it would have no bearing on me. So, I closed the app and tried to go back to sleep.

You’re probably wondering how much money I made on all of this. I definitely did not even break six figures, not even close. On the other hand, this wasn’t exactly a handful of quarters you find in the sofa either. Given what transpired today, I could easily live comfortably for another 12 months without working. Is that what I’m going to do? Probably not at this point.

I’ll receive the money in US dollars which is great. For now, it’ll go in a US dollars savings account while I figure out what to do with it. Part of it will probably get converted to Canadian dollars but I’ll wait to see what happens to the exchange rate. If this was mid-January where the dollar was worth $0.55 US, I’d convert a major chunk but the dollar has rallied since then. What I definitely know is that my London trip will be comfortably paid for now with this. I was planning on having McDonald’s for most of my meals but I’m thinking I might be able to have one decent fish and chips lunch now.

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