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Merging Auction Houses


  • Jesse A. Schwartz

    (Department of Economics, Vanderbilt University)

  • Ricardo Ungo

    (Department of Economics, Vanderbilt University)


In this paper, we study the incentives for market concentration of (online and traditional) auction houses. Would sellers and buyers be better off if two separate auction houses merged? We suppose that each auction house has a separate clientele of sellers and buyers. Sellers value their (identical) units at 0, while buyers have independent private values. Each auction house uses an ascending auction or by revenue equivalence any auction mechanism that allocates units efficiently among those buyers at that auction house. If no buyers are lost upon the merger, we find that efficiency gains increase, but that the expected sellers' revenue increases by more than the efficiency gains, leaving the buyers worse off. This result extends Bulow and Klemperer's (1996) insight that the competition of an additional bidder increases auction revenue by more than the ability to commit to an optimal auction with one less bidder; in our model, the extra competition created by having all of the bidders bid against each other after the merger more than offsets any supply effects. With an example, we show that if buyers choose whether to participate or not, it is possible upon a merger that so many buyers are lost, the sellers are actually worse off. We conclude that without transfers from sellers to buyers, the merger may or may not be profitable for sellers.

Suggested Citation

  • Jesse A. Schwartz & Ricardo Ungo, 2003. "Merging Auction Houses," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0303, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:van:wpaper:0303

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Waehrer, Keith & Perry, Martin K, 2003. " The Effects of Mergers in Open-Auction Markets," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(2), pages 287-304, Summer.
    2. Austan Goolsbee & Judith Chevalier, 2002. "Measuring Prices and Price Competition Online: Amazon and Barnes and Noble," NBER Working Papers 9085, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Peters, Michael & Severinov, Sergei, 2006. "Internet auctions with many traders," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 130(1), pages 220-245, September.
    4. Krishna, Vijay, 2009. "Auction Theory," Elsevier Monographs, Elsevier, edition 2, number 9780123745071.
    5. Klemperer, Paul, 1999. " Auction Theory: A Guide to the Literature," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(3), pages 227-286, July.
    6. Klemperer, Paul, 1999. " Auction Theory: A Guide to the Literature," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(3), pages 227-86, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jennifer Brown & John Morgan, 2009. "How Much Is a Dollar Worth? Tipping versus Equilibrium Coexistence on Competing Online Auction Sites," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(4), pages 668-700, August.

    More about this item


    Auctions; mergers;

    JEL classification:

    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions

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