Giulio Federico ‘Horizontal Mergers, Innovation and the Competitive Process’ (2017) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 8(10)

Recent merger decisions have revived the debate on the role of innovation in merger control. The theory of harm put forward by competition authorities in these recent merger cases posits that a merger between rival innovators may lessen competition not only because of a reduction in (static) competition on current products, but also because of a lessening of (dynamic) competition on future products. According to this theory of harm, the loss of future competition may, at least in part, stem from a reduction in innovation. This article, available here, reviews the debate on the relationship between horizontal mergers and innovation up to this point (i.e. 2017). I think it provides a good overview of the various arguments invoked to subject mergers affecting innovation to more stringent scrutiny during a first stage of the debate. Section II offers a succinct historical account of economic thinking on the relationship between competition and innovation. Innovation theories of harm in merger control are premised…

Justus Haucap, Alexander Rasch and Joel Stiebale on ‘How mergers affect innovation: Theory and evidence’ (2019) International Journal of Industrial Organization 63 283

This article, available here, argues that a complete analysis of potential efficiencies from mergers should not only analyse how the merged entity’s prices, quantities and innovation incentives change (i.e., the direct effects of a merger), but also how these change for rival firms (indirect effects). While competition authorities sometimes analyse how mergers directly affect the merged firm’s innovation incentives, especially in high-tech industries, impacts on rivals’ innovation incentives have been rarely mentioned in merger guidelines or competition cases. This is unfortunate, since the effects of mergers on innovation in the relevant market depend on the reactions of non-merging competitors. While there is a growing literature on the effects of mergers on the innovation of the merging firms, evidence on the effects of mergers on outsiders’ innovation incentives is scarce. Thus, this paper studies how horizontal mergers affect the innovation efforts of both the merged entity and its non-merging competitors. Using data on horizontal mergers among pharmaceutical firms in Europe, it…

C. Scott Hemphill and Nancy L. Rose on ‘Mergers that Harm Sellers’ (2018) Yale Law Journal 127(1) 2078

In typical mergers, the main concern is that the parties will be able to raise the prices they charge purchasers. Some mergers, however, reduce competition among competing buyers, thereby reducing the prices that sellers receive for their products and services. These adverse “buy-side” effects may harm a wide variety of sellers, including workers.  This paper, available here, examines the antitrust treatment of mergers that harm sellers. Its central claim is that harm to sellers in an input market is sufficient to support antitrust liability. Part I considers mergers that increase classical monopsony power. Monopsony is used here as the mirror image of monopoly, i.e. market power susceptible of affecting the price of inputs. Monopsony is a frequent concern in labour and agricultural markets. As with lawfully acquired monopoly power, antitrust law does not prohibit the exercise of lawfully acquired monopsony power, despite its economic costs. Yet antitrust problems do arise when buyers increase their monopsony power by combining forces. Agreements…

Eliana Garcés and Daniel Gaynor, deals with ‘Conglomerate Mergers: Developments and a Call for Caution’ (2019) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 10(7) 457

Traditionally, conglomerate mergers have raised little antitrust concern since the merging companies’ products were not perceived to compete with each other or to be critical in the merger parties’ value chain. The assessment of these mergers has generally consisted of a check for potential foreclosure strategies by way of tying or the reduction of technological interoperability. More recently, new theories of harm emerged from bargaining theories and dynamic considerations. These theories acknowledge a greater concern about dynamic effects of mergers on innovation, that an increasing number of markets exhibit bargaining power on both sides of a transaction, and that mergers of complements may not be innocuous in markets for increasingly complex products. This paper, available here, argues that these new theories are not suitable to generate ex ante decision-making rules; instead, their applicability will need to be empirically validated on a case-by-case basis. Section 2 deals with the traditional treatment of conglomerate mergers. The most common theories of harm traditionally…

David Glasner and Sean P. Sullivan on ‘The Logic of Market Definition’ (forthcoming) Antitrust Law Journal

This paper,available here , is not technically about merger control, but it is as relevant here as in any other competition topic – and it fits nicely with wider discussions of market power and market entry, which, as we have seen in past weeks, are common in merger control. While the usefulness of, and methodologies concerning market definition would seem to be well established, in practice both are actively questioned. Some have even argued that market definition is unnecessary in competition law. While this argument is not new, Louis Kaplow has recently advanced this thesis with a particularly pointed argument that: (1) market definition serves no role except to produce market shares, (2) market shares are poor measures of market power, and (3) antitrust would be better served by ignoring market shares and trying to assess market power from estimates of residual-demand curves and the like instead. The goal of this paper is to trace the internal logic of market…

Tommaso Valletti and Hans Zenger on ‘Mergers with differentiated products: Where do we stand?’

This paper, available here, provides an overview of the state of economic analysis of unilateral effects in mergers with differentiated products. It discusses both static and dynamic competition. Section 2 focuses on price competition and discusses the calibration of unilateral effects using diversion-based tools such as upward pricing pressure. One of the most prominent developments of the past decades was to put closeness of substitution at the heart of unilateral effects analysis. It is well known that market shares can be off the mark in trying to account for consumers’ heterogeneous switching patterns between differentiated products. When robust data is available, it is therefore more sensible to assess competitive overlaps directly via diversion ratios than to rely on market shares as an imperfect proxy. Obtaining an estimate of diversion is feasible in many, though far from all, significant mergers (e.g., through switching data, bidding data, customer surveys, event studies or demand estimation). While diversion ratios provide a good indication of…

Tommaso Valletti and Hans Zenger, on ‘Increasing Market Power and Merger Control’ (2019)

A significant body of empirical research has documented a structural increase in margins across a wide range of industries and countries. On average, firms enjoy appreciably greater pricing power today than used to be the case in prior decades. Research also showed that this increase in mark-ups coincided with a decline in the labour share of output, higher aggregate concentration, larger corporate profitability, and a slump in business dynamism (as measured by indicators such as entry, investment and innovation). Some researchers have attributed recent margin trends primarily to the growth of so-called “superstar firms”—highly profitable companies that have successfully seized the opportunities generated by globalization and technological change (such as digitization and automation). Others have linked increasing mark-ups to a lack of competition, e.g. overly permissive merger control. This article, available here, explores the implications of increased pricing power for merger control. It is structured as follows: Section 2 discusses the implications of increased pricing power for the assessment of…

Jorge Padilla on ‘Should Profit Margins Play a More Decisive Role in Horizontal Merger Control?’ (2018) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 9(4) 260

This paper, availabl, here, argues that, while profit margins should (and do) play a role in the assessment of the potential price effect of a horizontal merger, there is no justification for the adoption of a policy that targets high-margin markets. Such a policy is bound to produce false negatives (Type II errors) and false positives (Type I errors) because: (i) accounting profits are not necessarily in line with economic profits, (ii) comparing accounting profits across firms, industries and countries is a notoriously complex exercise, bound to produce misleading conclusions, and (iii) mergers between profitable and not so profitable firms facilitate the efficient reallocation of resources and are, therefore, likely to have positive microeconomic and macroeconomic implications. Section II looks at the relationship between profit margins and market concentration. Economists have debated the relationship between profit margins and market concentration for years. Based on some cross-section industry studies in the USA, industrial organisation economists believed for a long period of…