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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 Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse in its series IDEI Working Papers with number 405.

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Date of creation: Jul 2006
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Publication status: Published in The Review of Network Economics, vol.�12, n°1, 2013, p.�27-59.
Handle: RePEc:ide:wpaper:5853

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References

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  1. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 691-719, August.
  2. Rey, Patrick & Tirole, Jean, 2007. "A Primer on Foreclosure," Handbook of Industrial Organization, Elsevier.
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Cited by:
  1. Felix Höffler & Sebastian Kranz, 2007. "Imperfect Legal Unbundling of Monopolistic Bottlenecks," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse16_2007, University of Bonn, Germany.
  2. 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".
  3. Pollitt, Michael, 2008. "The arguments for and against ownership unbundling of energy transmission networks," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 704-713, February.
  4. Tangerås, Thomas P., 2012. "Optimal transmission regulation of an integrated energy market," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 1644-1655.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.

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