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Predation and Its Rate of Return: The Sugar Industry, 1887-1914


  • David Genesove
  • Wallace P. Mullin


We study entry into the American sugar refining industry before World War I. We show that the price wars following two major entry episodes were predatory. Our proof is twofold: by direct comparison of price to marginal cost, and by construction of predicted competitive price cost margins that we show to exceed observed margins. We argue that predation occurred only when the relative cost of it to the dominant firm was small, and that it was most probably used to deter future capacity additions. It was also used to lower the purchase price of preexisting firms after one entry episode.

Suggested Citation

  • David Genesove & Wallace P. Mullin, 1997. "Predation and Its Rate of Return: The Sugar Industry, 1887-1914," NBER Working Papers 6032, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6032
    Note: IO

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bolton, Patrick & Scharfstein, David S, 1990. "A Theory of Predation Based on Agency Problems in Financial Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 93-106, March.
    2. Hanes, Christopher, 1993. "The Development of Nominal Wage Rigidity in the Late 19th Century," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 732-756, September.
    3. Marvin B. Lieberman, 1987. "Postentry Investment and Market Structure in the Chemical Processing Industries," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(4), pages 533-549, Winter.
    4. Kreps, David M. & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Reputation and imperfect information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 253-279, August.
    5. Cabral, Luis M B & Riordan, Michael H, 1994. "The Learning Curve, Market Dominance, and Predatory Pricing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(5), pages 1115-1140, September.
    6. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1982. "Predation, reputation, and entry deterrence," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 280-312, August.
    7. Jean Tirole, 1988. "The Theory of Industrial Organization," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262200716, January.
    8. Garth Saloner, 1987. "Predation, Mergers, and Incomplete Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(2), pages 165-186, Summer.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen Martin, 2015. "Areeda–Turner and the Treatment of Exclusionary Pricing under U.S. Antitrust and EU Competition Policy," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 46(3), pages 229-252, May.
    2. John Asker & Heski Bar-Isaac, 2012. "Vertical Practices Facilitating Exclusion," Working Papers 12-20, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
    3. John Asker & Heski Bar-Isaac, 2014. "Raising Retailers' Profits: On Vertical Practices and the Exclusion of Rivals," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(2), pages 672-686, February.
    4. David Genesove & Avi Simhon, 2015. "Seasonality and the Effect of Advertising on Price," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(1), pages 199-222, March.
    5. M. van Leuvensteijn, 2008. "The Boone-indicator: Identifying different regimes of competition for the American Sugar Refining Company 1890-1914," Working Papers 08-37, Utrecht School of Economics.
    6. Stephen Martin, 2010. "Economic Arguments in U.S. Antitrust and EU Competition Policy: Two Roads Diverged," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1257, Purdue University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L41 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Monopolization; Horizontal Anticompetitive Practices


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