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Sunk Costs and Risk-Based Barriers to Entry

  • Robert S. Pindyck

In merger analysis and other antitrust settings, risk is often cited as a potential barrier to entry. But there is little consensus as to the kinds of risk that matter - systematic versus non-systematic and industry-wide versus firm-specific - and the mechanisms through which they affect entry. I show how and to what extent different kinds of risk magnify the deterrent effect of exogenous sunk costs of entry, and thereby affect industry dynamics, concentration, and equilibrium market prices. To do this, I develop a measure of the "full," i.e., risk-adjusted, sunk cost of entry. I show that for reasonable parameter values, the full sunk cost is far larger than the direct measure of sunk cost typically used to analyze markets.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14755.

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Date of creation: Feb 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14755
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  1. Farrell, J. & Shapiro, C., 1988. "Horizontal Mergers: An Equilibrium Analysis," Papers 17, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
  2. Pindyck, Robert S., 2005. "Sunk Costs and Real Options in Antitrust," Working papers 18233, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  3. Schmalensee, Richard, 2004. "Sunk Costs and Antitrust Barriers to Entry," Working papers 4457-04, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  4. Felipe L. Aguerrevere, 2003. "Equilibrium Investment Strategies and Output Price Behavior: A Real-Options Approach," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 16(4), pages 1239-1272.
  5. Dennis W. Carlton, 2004. "Why Barriers to Entry Are Barriers to Understanding," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 466-470, May.
  6. Heitor Almeida & Thomas Philippon, 2005. "The Risk-Adjusted Cost of Financial Distress," NBER Working Papers 11685, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Steven R. Grenadier, 2002. "Option Exercise Games: An Application to the Equilibrium Investment Strategies of Firms," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 15(3), pages 691-721.
  8. Cabral, Luís M B & Ross, Thomas, 2007. "Are Sunk Costs a Barrier to Entry?," CEPR Discussion Papers 6162, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Thomas Philippon & Francesco Franco, 2005. "Firms and Aggregate Dynamics," 2005 Meeting Papers 246, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. Nicola Cetorelli & Philip E. Strahan, 2004. "Finance as a Barrier to Entry: Bank Competition and Industry Structure in Local U.S. Markets," NBER Working Papers 10832, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. David M. Kreps & Jose A. Scheinkman, 1983. "Quantity Precommitment and Bertrand Competition Yield Cournot Outcomes," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(2), pages 326-337, Autumn.
  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. Pindyck, Robert S, 1993. "A Note on Competitive Investment under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 273-77, March.
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