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Legal vs Ownership Unbundling in Network Industries

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  • Cremer, Helmuth
  • Crémer, Jacques
  • De Donder, Philippe

Abstract

This paper studies the impact of legal unbundling vs ownership unbundling on the incentives of a network operator to invest and maintain its assets. We consider an industry where the upstream firm first chooses the size of a network, while several downstream firms then compete in selling goods and services that use this network as a necessary input. We contrast the (socially) optimal allocation with several equilibrium situations, depending on whether the upstream firm owns zero, one or two downstream firms. The first situation corresponds to ownership unbundling between upstream and downstream parts of the market. As for the other two cases, we equate legal unbundling with the following two assumptions. First, each downstream firm maximizes its own profit, without taking into account any impact on the upstream firm's profit. Second, the upstream firm is not allowed to discriminate between downstream firms by charging different access charges for the use of its network. On the other hand, we assume that the upstream firm chooses its network size in order to maximize its total profit, including the profit of its downstream subsidiaries. Our main results are as follows. Because the investment in the network is not protected, at the time at which it is made, by a contract, the upstream firm will not take into account the interests of its clients when choosing its size. This effect can be mitigated by allowing it to own part of the downstream industry. In other words, ownership separation is more detrimental to welfare than legal unbundling. We also obtain that these results are robust to the introduction of asymmetry in network needs across downstream firms, imperfect downstream competition and downstream investments.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5767.

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Date of creation: Jul 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5767

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Keywords: China walls; vertical separation;

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References

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  1. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver, 1985. "The Cost and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," CEPR Discussion Papers 70, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Rey, Patrick & Tirole, Jean, 2003. "A Primer on Foreclosure," IDEI Working Papers 203, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse, revised Nov 2005.
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Cited by:
  1. Russell Pittman, 2007. "Make or buy on the Russian railway? Coase, Williamson, and Tsar Nicholas II," Economic Change and Restructuring, Springer, vol. 40(3), pages 207-221, September.
  2. Pollitt, Michael, 2008. "The arguments for and against ownership unbundling of energy transmission networks," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 704-713, February.
  3. Tangerås, Thomas P., 2010. "Optimal Transmission Regulation in an Integrated Energy Market," Working Paper Series 838, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  4. Bastian Henze & Charles Noussair & Bert Willems, 2012. "Regulation of network infrastructure investments: an experimental evaluation," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 42(1), pages 1-38, August.
  5. Benjamin Pakula & Georg Götz, 2011. "Organisational Structures in Network Industries – An Application to the Railway Industry," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201109, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  6. Höffler, Felix & Kranz, Sebastian, 2011. "Legal unbundling can be a golden mean between vertical integration and ownership separation," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 576-588, September.
  7. Felix Höffler & Sebastian Kranz, 2007. "Imperfect Legal Unbundling of Monopolistic Bottlenecks," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse16_2007, University of Bonn, Germany.
  8. Nikogosian, Vigen & Veith, Tobias, 2011. "Vertical integration, separation and non-price discrimination: An empirical analysis of German electricity markets for residential customers," ZEW Discussion Papers 11-069, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  9. Alessandro Avenali & Giorgio Matteucci & Pierfrancesco Reverberi, 2010. "How does vertical industry structure affect investment in infrastructure quality?," DIS Technical Reports 2010-08, Department of Computer, Control and Management Engineering, Universita' degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza".
  10. Raffaele Fiocco, 2012. "Competition and regulation with product differentiation," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 287-307, December.

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