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Incomplete Contracting and Target-Cost Pricing


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  • Dieter Bös
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    Target-cost pricing has been a widely applied formula in defence contracting. If this type of pricing arrangement is chosen, the seller's ex-post profit consists of a fixed payment plus some share of the cost overrun, that is the difference between an ex--ante agreed estimation of the production costs and the actual production costs. In an incomplete--contract setting, where relationship-- specific investments have to be made prior to the production stage, the cost-reimbursement properties of target-cost pricing work against a first best. However, since costs are verifiable, the ex-- ante contract allows to condition the initial contract on costs, that is, to stipulate a separate trade price for each cost observation, plus a special price for the no--trade case. (If costs are non--verifiable, it is only possible to fix one price for trade and one price for non--trade.) This increase in the number of instruments available to the agents works in favour of a first best. The paper shows that the positive properties of target-cost pricing outweigh the negative ones: it is possible to find prices which induce the agents to invest efficiently into relationship-specific investments, thus avoiding Williamson's hold-up problem. This result is particularly important because fixed-price contracts a la Hart-- Moore (1988) fail to achieve the first best if they are applied in the same environment in which target-cost prices succeed in attaining the first best. Since any contract, which implies full cost-reimbursement, also fails to achieve the first best, this paper shows that the first best requires just that middle-of-the-road approach which is offered by target-cost pricing.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by University of Bonn, Germany in its series Discussion Paper Serie A with number 524.

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    Date of creation: Jun 1996
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    Handle: RePEc:bon:bonsfa:524

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    Postal: Bonn Graduate School of Economics, University of Bonn, Adenauerallee 24 - 26, 53113 Bonn, Germany
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    Keywords: Procurement; Target--Cost Pricing; Holdup Problem; Incomplete Contracts;

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    1. Chung, Tai-Yeong, 1991. "Incomplete Contracts, Specific Investments, and Risk Sharing," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(5), pages 1031-42, October.
    2. Hartley, Keith, 1969. "Estimating Military Aircraft Production Outlays: The British Experience," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 79(316), pages 861-81, December.
    3. Georg Nöldeke & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1992. "Option Contracts and Renegotiation - A Solution to the Hold-Up Problem," Discussion Paper Serie A 417, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Aug 1993.
    4. Hardman Moore, John & Hart, Oliver, 1985. "Incomplete Contracts and Renegotiation," CEPR Discussion Papers 60, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Ballard, Charles L & Shoven, John B & Whalley, John, 1985. "General Equilibrium Computations of the Marginal Welfare Costs of Taxes in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 128-38, March.
    6. Dieter Bös, 1996. "Privatization and Restructuring: An Incomplete-Contract Approach," IMF Working Papers 96/101, International Monetary Fund.
    7. Bos, Dieter & Lulfesmann, Christoph, 1996. " The Hold-Up Problem in Government Contracting," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 98(1), pages 53-74, March.
    8. Aghion, Philippe & Dewatripont, Mathias & Rey, Patrick, 1994. "Renegotiation Design with Unverifiable Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 257-82, March.
    9. J. Michael Cummins, 1977. "Incentive Contracting for National Defense: A Problem of Optimal Risk Sharing," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 8(1), pages 168-185, Spring.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Une économie optimale des partenariats publics-privés: est-ce possible?
      by (Myriam Dahman-Saïdi) in BS Initiative on 2014-06-11 08:05:23
    2. Une économie optimale des partenariats publics-privés: est-ce possible?
      by (Myriam Dahman-Saïdi) in BS Initiative on 2014-06-11 08:05:23
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    Cited by:
    1. Boes, Dieter, . "Incomplete contracting and price regulation," Discussion Paper Serie A 593, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Apr 1999.
    2. Dieter Bös, 1995. "Incomplete Contracting and Price--Cap Regulation," Discussion Paper Serie A 534, University of Bonn, Germany.


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