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Antitrust Evaluation of Horizontal Mergers: An Economic Alternative to Market Definition

  • Farrell, Joseph
  • Shapiro, Carl

We propose a simple, new test for making an initial determination of whether a proposed merger between rivals is likely to reduce competition and thus lead to higher prices. Under current antitrust policy, the government can establish a presumption that a proposed horizontal merger will harm competition by defining the relevant market and showing that the merger will lead to a substantial increase in concentration in that market. However, this approach can perform poorly in markets for differentiated products, where market boundaries are unclear and the proximity of the products sold by the merging firms is a key determinant of the merger's effect on competition. Our test looks for upward pricing pressure (UPP) resulting from the merger. We develop a simple diagnostic for UPP based on the price/cost margins of the products sold by the merging firms and the magnitude of direct substitution between the two firm's products. We argue that our approach is well grounded in economics, workable in practice, and superior to existing methods in a substantial class of mergers.

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Paper provided by Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley in its series Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series with number qt8z51b1q8.

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Date of creation: 25 Nov 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cdl:compol:qt8z51b1q8
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  1. Farrell, Joseph & Shapiro, Carl, 1988. "Horizontal Mergers: An Equilibrium Analysis," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt0tp305nx, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  2. Edlin, Aaron S. & Farrell, Joseph, 2002. "The American Airlines Case: A Chance to Clarify Predation Policy," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt0wx7c4zf, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  3. Dennis W. Carlton, 2007. "The Need to Measure the Effect of Merger Policy and How to Do It," EAG Discussions Papers 200715, Department of Justice, Antitrust Division.
  4. Goppelsroeder, M. & Schinkel, M.P. & Tuinstra, J., 2006. "Quantifying the Scope for Efficiency Defense in Merger Control: The Werden-Froeb-Index," CeNDEF Working Papers 06-09, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Center for Nonlinear Dynamics in Economics and Finance.
  5. Schmalensee, Richard., 1987. "Inter-industry studies of structure and performance," Working papers 1874-87., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  6. Froeb, Luke & Tschantz, Steven & Werden, Gregory J., 2005. "Pass-through rates and the price effects of mergers," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(9-10), pages 703-715, December.
  7. Oliver Budzinski & Isabel Ruhmer, 2009. "Merger Simulation in Competition Policy: A Survey," Working Papers 82/09, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Environmental and Business Economics.
  8. Gregory Werden, 2008. "Beyond Critical Loss: Properly Applying the Hypothetical Monopolist Test," Antitrust Chronicle, Competition Policy International, vol. 3.
  9. Werden, G.J., 1996. "A Robust Test for Consumer Welfare Enhancing Mergers Among Sellers of Differentiated Products," Papers 96-01, U.S. Department of Justice - Antitrust Division.
  10. Volker Nocke & Michael D. Whinston, 2010. "Dynamic Merger Review," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(6), pages 1201 - 1251.
  11. Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg & Michael M. Knetter, 1997. "Goods Prices and Exchange Rates: What Have We Learned?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1243-1272, September.
  12. Bergstrom, Theodore C. & Varian, Hal R., 1985. "Two remarks on Cournot equilibria," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 5-8.
  13. Federico Echenique, 2002. "Comparative Statics by Adaptive Dynamics and the Correspondence Principle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 833-844, March.
  14. Raymond Deneckere & Carl Davidson, 1985. "Incentives to Form Coalitions with Bertrand Competition," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 16(4), pages 473-486, Winter.
  15. Werden, G.J., 1992. "The History of Antitrust Market Delineation," Papers 92-8, U.S. Department of Justice - Antitrust Division.
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