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Cost Reductions, Cost Padding, and Stock Market Prices: the Chilean Experience with Price-Cap Regulation


  • Rafael Di Tella


  • Alexander Dyck



We study the Chilean electricity distribution industry and find that costs (the ratio of reported costs to revenues) have fallen since price caps were introduced. Cost reductions are U-shaped since 1989: Strong initial cost reductions reverse every four years, coinciding with regulatory reviews. A possible explanation is that firms are behaving strategically. We then use stock market data to complement our study. We construct a measure of cumulative abnormal returns for regulated firms around their quarterly announcements, and a measure of "naive" cost expectations which excludes any indication of the occurrence of review periods. In general, cost reports in excess of naive cost expectations have a negative effect on returns, even after we control for company fixed effects. The exception is cost "surprises" that happen during review periods, which increase abnormal returns. The estimated effects fall over time. This is consistent with the hypothesis of strategic firms and that the regulatory regime translates these "games" into higher rates in a way that is not completely anticipated by the market. More generally, the results suggest there may be value in complementing regulatory procedures with stock market information.

Suggested Citation

  • Rafael Di Tella & Alexander Dyck, 2008. "Cost Reductions, Cost Padding, and Stock Market Prices: the Chilean Experience with Price-Cap Regulation," ECONOMIA JOURNAL, THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION - LACEA, vol. 0(Spring 20), pages 155-196, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000425:008609

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    Cited by:

    1. Andersson Fredrik, 2011. "Make-or-Buy Decisions and the Manipulability of Performance Measures," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 1-30, December.
    2. Ariel Casarin, 2014. "Productivity throughout regulatory cycles in gas utilities," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 45(2), pages 115-137, April.
    3. Galetovic, Alexander & Inostroza, Juan Ricardo, 2008. "A lesson from Argentina: Setting transmission tolls in a competitive auction is much better than regulating them," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 1334-1366, July.

    More about this item


    Price-cap Regulation; Gaming; Capture; Commitment; Stock Market;

    JEL classification:

    • L43 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Legal Monopolies and Regulation or Deregulation
    • L50 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - General
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading


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