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

  • Shapiro, Carl
  • Farrell, Joseph

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 Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley in its series Department of Economics, Working Paper Series with number qt35c5f846.

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Date of creation: 25 Nov 2008
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:econwp:qt35c5f846
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  1. 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.
  2. Edlin, Aaron S. & Farrell, Joseph, 2002. "The American Airlines Case: A Chance to Clarify Predation Policy," Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series qt32h8b40m, Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  3. 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.
  4. Schmalensee, Richard., 1987. "Inter-industry studies of structure and performance," Working papers 1874-87., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  5. Federico Echenique, 2002. "Comparative Statics by Adaptive Dynamics and the Correspondence Principle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 833-844, March.
  6. Farrell, Joseph & Shapiro, Carl, 1990. "Horizontal Mergers: An Equilibrium Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 107-26, March.
  7. Nocke, Volker & Whinston, Michael, 2008. "Dynamic Merger Review," CEPR Discussion Papers 7077, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. 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.
  9. Werden, G.J., 1992. "The History of Antitrust Market Delineation," Papers 92-8, U.S. Department of Justice - Antitrust Division.
  10. Oliver Budzinski & Isabel Ruhmer, 2008. "Merger Simulation in Competition Policy: A Survey," MAGKS Papers on Economics 200807, Philipps-Universit├Ąt Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  11. 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.
  12. Bergstrom, Theodore C. & Varian, Hal R., 1985. "Two remarks on Cournot equilibria," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 5-8.
  13. Werden, Gregory J, 1996. "A Robust Test for Consumer Welfare Enhancing Mergers among Sellers of Differentiated Products," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(4), pages 409-13, December.
  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.
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