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…