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The Benefits of Privatization: Evidence from Mexico

  • Rafael La Porta
  • Florencio Lopez-de-Silane

Criticisms of privatization have centered around the possibility that the observed higher profitability of privatized companies comes at the expense of the rest of society. In this paper we focus on two of the most likely channels for social losses: (1) increased prices as firms capitalize on the market power; and (2) layoffs and lower wages as firms seek to roll back generous labor contracts. Using data for all 218 non-financial privatizations that took place in Mexico between 1983 and 1991 we find that privatized firms quickly bridge the pre-privatization performance gap with industry-matched control groups. For example, privatization is followed by a 24 percentage point increase in the ratio of operating income to sales. We roughly decompose those gains in profitability as follows: 10 percent of the increase is due to higher product prices; 33 percent of the increase represents a transfer from laid-off workers; and productivity gains account for the residual 57 percent. Transfers from society to the firm are partially offset by taxes which absorb slightly over half the gains in operating income. Finally, we also find evidence indicating that deregulation is associated with faster convergence to industry benchmarks.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6215.

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Date of creation: Oct 1997
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Quarterly Journal of Economics (November 1999): 1193-1242.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6215
Note: CF PE
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  1. Megginson, William L & Nash, Robert C & van Randenborgh, Matthias, 1994. " The Financial and Operating Performance of Newly Privatized Firms: An International Empirical Analysis," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(2), pages 403-52, June.
  2. Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1994. "Politicians and Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 995-1025, November.
  3. Florencio Lopez-de-Silane, 1996. "Determinants of Privatization Prices," NBER Working Papers 5494, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Shapiro, C. & Willing, D.R., 1990. "Economic Rationales For The Scope Of Privatization," Papers 41, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
  5. John Vickers & George Yarrow, 1988. "Privatization: An Economic Analysis," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262720116, June.
  6. Caves, Richard E., 1990. "Lessons from privatization in Britain : State enterprise behavior, public choice, and corporate governance," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 145-169, March.
  7. George J. Stigler, 1971. "The Theory of Economic Regulation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 2(1), pages 3-21, Spring.
  8. Alfred E. Kahn, 1988. "The Economics of Regulation: Principles and Institutions," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262610523, June.
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