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The Merger Paradox and why Aspiration Levels Let it Fail in the Laboratory

  • Steffen Huck
  • Kai A. Konrad
  • Wieland Müller
  • Hans-Theo Normann

We study the merger paradox, a relative of Harsanyi's bargaining paradox, in an experiment. We examine bilateral mergers in experimental Cournot markets with initially three or four firms. Standard Cournot-Nash equilibrium predicts total outputs well. However, merged firms produce significantly more output than their competitors. As a result, mergers are not unprofitable. By analysing control treatments, we provide an explanation for these results based on the notion of aspiration levels, and show that the same logic also operates when a new firm enters a market. These results have some general consequences for adaptive play in changing environments. Copyright 2007 The Author(s). Journal compilation Royal Economic Society 2007.

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Article provided by Royal Economic Society in its journal The Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 117 (2007)
Issue (Month): 522 (07)
Pages: 1073-1095

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Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:117:y:2007:i:522:p:1073-1095
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  1. Fridolfsson, Sven-Olof & Stennek, Johan, 2000. "Why Mergers Reduce Profits, and Raise Share-Prices," CEPR Discussion Papers 2357, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. M. Posch & A. Pichler & K. Sigmund, 1998. "The Efficiency of Adapting Aspiration Levels," Working Papers ir98103, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
  3. Craig Gallet, 2001. "The Gradual Response of Market Power to Mergers in the U.S. Steel Industry," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 327-336, May.
  4. Holt, Charles A, 1985. "An Experimental Test of the Consistent-Conjectures Hypothesis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 314-25, June.
  5. Breusch, T S & Pagan, A R, 1980. "The Lagrange Multiplier Test and Its Applications to Model Specification in Econometrics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(1), pages 239-53, January.
  6. Ajeyo Banerjee & E. Woodrow Eckard, 1998. "Are Mega-Mergers Anticompetitive? Evidence from the First Great Merger Wave," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 29(4), pages 803-827, Winter.
  7. Stephen J. Mezias & Ya-Ru Chen & Patrice R. Murphy, 2002. "Aspiration-Level Adaptation in an American Financial Services Organization: A Field Study," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(10), pages 1285-1300, October.
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