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Sunk Costs and Real Options in Antitrust

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  • Robert S. Pindyck

Abstract

Sunk costs play a central role in antitrust economics, but are often misunderstood and mismeasured. I will try to clarify some of the conceptual and empirical issues related to sunk costs, and explain their implications for antitrust analysis. I will be particularly concerned with the role of uncertainty. When market conditions evolve unpredictably (as they almost always do), firms incur an opportunity cost when they invest in new capital, because they give up the option to wait for the arrival of new information about the likely returns from the investment. This option value is a sunk cost, and is just as relevant for antitrust analysis as the direct cost of a machine or a factory.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert S. Pindyck, 2005. "Sunk Costs and Real Options in Antitrust," NBER Working Papers 11430, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11430
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Pindyck, Robert S., 1993. "Investments of uncertain cost," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 53-76, August.
    2. repec:reg:rpubli:337 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Baumol, William J, 1982. "Contestable Markets: An Uprising in the Theory of Industry Structure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(1), pages 1-15, March.
    4. Pindyck Robert S., 2007. "Mandatory Unbundling and Irreversible Investment in Telecom Networks," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 6(3), pages 1-25, September.
    5. Hausman, Jerry & Myers, Stewart, 2002. "Regulating the United States Railroads: The Effects of Sunk Costs and Asymmetric Risk," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 22(3), pages 287-310, November.
    6. Pindyck, Robert S, 1991. "Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Investment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(3), pages 1110-1148, September.
    7. Pindyck, Robert S, 1988. "Irreversible Investment, Capacity Choice, and the Value of the Firm," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 969-985, December.
    8. James L. Paddock & Daniel R. Siegel & James L. Smith, 1988. "Option Valuation of Claims on Real Assets: The Case of Offshore Petroleum Leases," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 103(3), pages 479-508.
    9. Avinash K. Dixit & Robert S. Pindyck, 1994. "Investment under Uncertainty," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 5474.
    10. Robert S. Pindyck, 2005. "Pricing Capital Under Mandatory Unbundling and Facilities Sharing," NBER Working Papers 11225, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Robert McDonald & Daniel Siegel, 1986. "The Value of Waiting to Invest," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(4), pages 707-727.
    12. Preston R. Fee & Hugo M. Mialon & Michael A. Williams, 2004. "What Is a Barrier to Entry?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 461-465, May.
    13. Rchard Schmalensee, 2004. "Sunk Costs and Antitrust Barriers to Entry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 471-475, May.
    14. George A. Akerlof, 1970. "The Market for "Lemons": Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500.
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    Cited by:

    1. Xiao, Mo & Orazem, Peter F., 2011. "Does the fourth entrant make any difference?: Entry and competition in the early U.S. broadband market," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 547-561, September.
    2. Dennis W. Carlton & Randal C. Picker, 2014. "Antitrust and Regulation," NBER Chapters,in: Economic Regulation and Its Reform: What Have We Learned?, pages 25-61 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Dennis W. Carlton, 2005. "Barriers To Entry," NBER Working Papers 11645, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Robert S. Pindyck, 2009. "Sunk Costs and Risk-Based Barriers to Entry," NBER Working Papers 14755, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Paul A.Grout & Anna Zalewska, 2006. "Profitability Measures and Competition Law," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 06/144, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L40 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - General
    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection

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