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Quantitative Analysis Of Competitive Effects For Antitrust. Day 1. Luke Froeb Owen Graduate School of Management Vanderbilt University April, 2003. Case Studies Showing How Modeling is Used in Antitrust. WorldCom-Sprint Consumer Branded Product Carnival-Princess.

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quantitative analysis of competitive effects for antitrust

Quantitative Analysis Of Competitive EffectsFor Antitrust

Day 1

Luke Froeb

Owen Graduate School of Management

Vanderbilt University

April, 2003

case studies showing how modeling is used in antitrust

Case Studies Showing How Modeling is Used in Antitrust


Consumer Branded Product


worldcom sprint merger background
WorldCom-Sprint Merger:Background
  • Merger scrutinized by
    • U.S. Department of Justice
    • Federal Communications Commission
    • Interested third parties like Bell Atlantic
  • Overlap in residential long distance service
  • Regulatory restrictions keeping local phone companies out of market were soon to fall
worldcom sprint merger methodology
WorldCom-Sprint Merger:Methodology
  • Estimate consumer choice model (demand)
  • Estimate/Calibrate Firm Model (supply)
  • Simulate “ownership” effect of merger
worldcom sprint merger simulated merger effects
WorldCom-Sprint Merger:Simulated Merger Effects
  • Demand estimation from bill “harvesting”
    • Inelastic demand
    • Predicted price increases for merging firms

WorldCom: 5.4% Sprint: 8.9%

  • Calibration from WorldCom’s margin
    • Small margins imply more elastic demand
    • Predicted price increases for merging firms

WorldCom: 2.2% Sprint: 5.1%

worldcom sprint merger mergers in a post entry world
WorldCom-Sprint Merger:Mergers in a Post-Entry World
  • Does entry occur in response to merger?
  • Entry by incumbent local exchange carriers (“Baby Bells”)
    • State-level “experiments” show 25% share of long distance
    • What is merger effect in post-entry world?
  • Baby Bell entry cuts the industry average price effect in half
branded consumer goods merger
Branded ConsumerGoods Merger
  • This is a real case that must be kept confidential, so numbers are disguised
  • Entrant gained 25% share in two years
  • Proposed to purchase rival brand
  • Only 3 brands in “high end” segment
  • Aggregate segment elasticity 1.5
branded consumer goods merger findings
Branded Consumer Goods Merger: Findings
  • Estimated demand implies brands are fairly good substitutes for one another
  • Predicted industry price increase of 4%
  • Merging brand price increases of 5% and 8%
  • 12% and 18% marginal cost reductions required to offset price increases
is merger prediction consistent with entry experience
Is Merger Prediction Consistent with Entry Experience?
  • Incumbent brands did not reduce price in response to entry with a 25% share
    • Implies entrant is bad substitute
  • Yet, we get a significant price increase following merger
    • Implies entrant is good substitute
  • Is post-merger price increase consistent with no incumbent entry response?
how to answer question
How to Answer Question
  • Calibrate model to observed data
  • “Undo” entry by raising price of recent entrant until zero quantity
  • Compare price changes of remaining (incumbent) brands
  • Entry effects are reverse of “undoing” entry effects
consumer goods merger entry model
Consumer Goods Merger:Entry Model
  • Prices of incumbent brands barely change
  • Quantity drops significantly
  • Entrants steal quantity, but do not affect price
  • In general, other firms do not much affect price
consumer goods merger how can we test this prediction
Consumer Goods Merger:How Can We Test this Prediction?
  • Where did entrant’s quantity come from?
    • 65% from “outside” option
      • Includes lower priced brands
    • 35% from incumbent brands
  • Is this consistent with entry data?
    • If not, may want to modify model
2002 cruise line merger introduction
2002 Cruise Line Merger:Introduction
  • Carnival (largest) and Royal Caribbean (second-largest) each bid for Princess (third-largest)
  • Capacity constraints and “perishable” service
    • big fixed costs, small marginal costs
  • Key strategy is “revenue management”
    • Price to match uncertain demand to available capacity, i.e. to “fill the ships”
merger of parking lot operators
Merger of Parking Lot Operators
  • Central Parking acquired Allright
  • Two largest parking lot operators in US
  • Pricing: “Is lot full by 9am?”
    • If “no,” then reduce price
    • If “yes,” then raise price
  • This profit calculus unchanged by merger
  • No merger effect if lots are full
  • But Justice Department opposed merger
    • Asked for 74 lot divestitures in 18 cities
cruise lines vs parking lots
Cruise Lines vs. Parking Lots
  • Similar strategies: filling ships vs. filling lots
  • There is no uncertainty about parking demand, but does that make a difference?
  • Theories considered by FTC
    • Fill-the-ship pricing is unaffected by merger
    • No quantity effect, but low-elasticity consumers pay more
  • Were theories correct? Magnitude of effects?
conclusions based on formal model of revenue management
Conclusions Based on Formal Model of Revenue Management
  • Two merger effects
    • Ownership effect raises price
    • Information-sharing effect raises or lowers price

But always increases quantity

  • Both effects small and disappear as uncertainty decreases
  • Confirms basic intuition from parking lot merger, i.e. firms price to fill the ships, and this profit calculus is unchanged by merger
spatial competition

Spatial Competition

Grocery Store Merger

Parking Lot Merger

geographic differentiation retail sector is consolidating
Geographic Differentiation Retail Sector is Consolidating
  • In US, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, Costco, and Sears account for 60 percent of general-merchandise sales
    • General-merchandise is 15 % of all retail sales
  • Productivity advantage over smaller retailers
    • Economies of scale
    • Economies of purchasing
    • Economies of distribution
retail consolidation also in europe
Retail Consolidation Also in Europe
  • In EU, top 10 grocery stores forecast to increase share to 50-60%
    • In 2002, top 10 had 38%
  • Wal-Mart entering Europe
policy reaction to retail consolidation
Policy Reaction to Retail Consolidation
  • FTC challenged some retail mergers
    • Blocked Kroger + Winn-Dixie
    • Blocked Staples + Office Depot
  • Competitive analysis based on increase in local (within-city) horizontal market power
    • “standard” horizontal analysis
quantitative horizontal analysis benefit cost analysis of merger
Quantitative Horizontal Analysis: Benefit-Cost Analysis of Merger
  • Goal: quantitative estimate of merger effect
    • Necessary to weigh efficiencies against loss of competition
  • Two methodologies
    • “Natural” experiments, e.g. Staples-Office Depot
    • Model-based simulations
natural experiments staples office depot
Natural Experiments: Staples-Office Depot
  • Prices in two-office-superstore cities found to be 7% lower than in one-office-superstore city
    • Is this a good metaphor for merger?
  • Pass-through rate (from cost to prices) was estimated to be 15%
  • This implies that a 85% reduction in costs necessary to offset merger effect
  • FTC successfully challenged merger
model based simulation
Model-Based Simulation
  • Model current competition
  • Estimate model parameters
  • Simulate loss of competition using estimated parameters
  • Unilateral competitive effect computed as difference between pre- and post-merger Nash equilibria
model based simulation kroger winn dixie
Estimate “gravity” choice model

Survey density in Charlotte, NC

Dots represent grocery stores

Choice depends on price, distance, and “noise”

Model-Based Simulation:Kroger + Winn Dixie
parking lot merger
Parking Lot Merger
  • “Gravity” choice model
  • Lots derive market power from location, capacity
  • Higher prices if
    • Few nearby lots
    • Many nearby consumers
    • Small lot capacity
parking lot merger model conclusions
Parking Lot Merger Model:Conclusions
  • Constraints on merging lots attenuate merger effects by more than constraints on non-merging ones amplify them
  • Merger effects poorly approximated by shares in geographic market areas
    • No bright lines between “in” and “out”
    • Shares poor proxies for localized competition
  • Justice Department erred when it asked for divestitures in 5-square block areas where the merging firms account for more than 35%
gravity choice models and merger effects
Gravity Choice Models And Merger Effects
  • Merger effects “depend” on
    • Location of consumers
    • Location of merging stores
    • Location of non-merging firms
    • Cost of travel
    • Other factors affecting demand
  • Weak generalization: small price effects if location only source of market power
differentiated products

Differentiated Products

What if we can’t estimate demand?

Modelling choices and trade-offs

Accounting for efficiencies

model based methodology
Model-Based Methodology
  • Specify and estimate a model
    • Consumer model (demand)
    • Firm model (supply)
  • Use model to simulate counterfactual scenario
    • Mergers, collusion, damages
example and questions to test approach
Example and Questions To “Test” Approach
  • Logit demand curve
    • What about other forms?
  • Price-setting competition
    • What about product, promotion, placement?
    • What about auctions, quantity-setting, vertical arrangements?
  • Constant marginal cost
    • What about scale economies or capacity constraints?
  • Static game
    • What about dynamic strategies?
  • Unilateral merger counterfactual
    • What about coordinated effects?
critique of market share screens with differentiated products
Critique of Market Share ScreensWith Differentiated Products
  • Competition does not stop at market boundary
  • Shares may be poor proxies for competitive effects
  • No role for efficiencies

How do you trade off a 10% marginal cost reduction against a 400 point change in HHI?

common problem cannot get reliable demand estimate
Common Problem: Cannot Get Reliable Demand Estimate
  • Relatively flexible functional forms often lead to nonsensical estimates
    • Goods are complements (when we know they are substitutes)
    • Inelastic demand (inconsistent with optimization)
  • Data not up to task of estimating so many parameters
solution ask less of data by making intuitive assumptions
If one firm increases price, its rivals gain quantity in proportion to existing shares

Implies all goods are substitutes

Implies margins proportional to shares

Implies cross elasticities proportional to shares

These restrictive forms require less data

Aggregate elasticity

One brand level elasticity or margin

Solution: Ask Less of Data byMaking Intuitive Assumptions
replacing market share screens
Replacing Market Share Screens
  • Swedish beer merger
  • Aggregate elasticity ≈ 1
  • Pripps margin ≈ 30%
  • Significant industry average price increase
logit model as a screen
Logit Model as a Screen
  • WorldCom-Sprint Merger
  • Aggregate elasticity ≈ -1
  • WorldCom Margin ≈ 30%
  • Relatively small price effects
using logit model as screen iii
Using Logit Model as Screen III
  • Rebuttable presumption starts dialogue
    • Show products are further apart than modeled
    • Show competition is more intense than modeled
  • Requires different safe harbors
    • “Give” parties a 5% MC reduction on each of their merging products

Would have allowed MCI-Sprint, but not beer

how do you incorporate merger specific efficiencies
How Do you Incorporate Merger-Specific Efficiencies?
  • How much do cost savings affect post-merger equilibrium?
    • One product assumes the mc of the other; or
    • Parties “prove” merger-specific cost reductions
  • Compute cost reductions sufficient to offset predicted price increase
    • In general, 2X to 3X times computed product price rise is enough.
    • Because pass-through related to post-merger price increase
which welfare standard total vs consumer welfare
Which Welfare Standard?Total vs. Consumer Welfare
  • Do fixed costs count?
    • Superior Propane in Canada fixed cost savings but prices went up.
    • Gain in profits was higher than consumer welfare loss
  • Canada is only country with a total welfare standard.
    • Short-run price increases vs. long-run efficiencies