An oligopoly (/ɒlɪˈɡɒpəli/, from Ancient Greek ὀλίγος (olígos) "few" + πωλεῖν (poleîn) "to sell") is a market form wherein a market or industry is dominated by a small number of large sellers (oligopolists). Oligopolies can result from various forms of collusion which reduce competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. Oligopolies have their own market structure.
With few sellers, each oligopolist is likely to be aware of the actions of the others. According to game theory, the decisions of one firm therefore influence and are influenced by decisions of other firms. Strategic planning by oligopolists needs to take into account the likely responses of the other market. Entry barriers include high investment requirements, strong consumer loyalty for existing brands and economies of scale.
Oligopoly is a common market form where a number of firms are in competition. As a quantitative description of oligopoly, the four-firm concentration ratio is often utilized. This measure expresses, as a percentage, the market share of the four largest firms in any particular industry. For example, as of fourth quarter 2008, if we combine total market share of Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, we see that these firms, together, control 97% of the U.S. cellular telephone market.
Oligopolistic competition can give rise to both wide-ranging and diverse outcomes. In some situations, particular companies may employ restrictive trade practices (collusion, market sharing etc.) in order to inflate prices and restrict production in much the same way that a monopoly does. Whenever there is a formal agreement for such collusion, between companies that usually compete with one another, this practice is known as a cartel. A prime example of such a cartel is OPEC, which has a profound influence on the international price of oil.
Firms often collude in an attempt to stabilize unstable markets, so as to reduce the risks inherent in these markets for investment and product development. There are legal restrictions on such collusion in most countries. There does not have to be a formal agreement for collusion to take place (although for the act to be illegal there must be actual communication between companies)–for example, in some industries there may be an acknowledged market leader which informally sets prices to which other producers respond, known as price leadership.
In other situations, competition between sellers in an oligopoly can be fierce, with relatively low prices and high production. This could lead to an efficient outcome approaching perfect competition. The competition in an oligopoly can be greater when there are more firms in an industry than if, for example, the firms were only regionally based and did not compete directly with each other.
Thus the welfare analysis of oligopolies is sensitive to the parameter values used to define the market's structure. In particular, the level of dead weight loss is hard to measure. The study of product differentiation indicates that oligopolies might also create excessive levels of differentiation in order to stifle competition.
Oligopoly theory makes heavy use of game theory to model the behavior of oligopolies:
Oligopolies become "mature" when they realise they can profit maximise through joint profit maximising. As a result of operating in countries with enforced competition laws, the Oligopolists will operate under tacit collusion, which is collusion through an understanding that if all the competitors in the market raise their prices, then collectively all the competitors can achieve economic profits close to a monopolist, without evidence of breaching government market regulations. Hence, the kinked demand curve for a joint profit maximising Oligopoly industry can model the behaviours of oligopolists pricing decisions other than that of the price leader (the price leader being the firm that all other firms follow in terms of pricing decisions). This is because if a firm unilaterally raises the prices of their good/service, and other competitors do not follow then, the firm that raised their price will then lose a significant market as they face the elastic upper segment of the demand curve. As the joint profit maximising achieves greater economic profits for all the firms, there is an incentive for an individual firm to "cheat" by expanding output to gain greater market share and profit. In Oligopolist cheating, and the incumbent firm discovering this breach in collusion, the other firms in the market will retaliate by matching or dropping prices lower than the original drop. Hence, the market share that the firm that dropped the price gained, will have that gain minimised or eliminated. This is why on the kinked demand curve model the lower segment of the demand curve is inelastic. As a result, price rigidity prevails in such markets.
There is no single model describing the operation of an oligopolistic market. The variety and complexity of the models exist because you can have two to 10 firms competing on the basis of price, quantity, technological innovations, marketing, and reputation. However, there are a series of simplified models that attempt to describe market behavior by considering certain circumstances. Some of the better-known models are the dominant firm model, the Cournot–Nash model, the Bertrand model and the kinked demand model.
The Cournot–Nash model is the simplest oligopoly model. The model assumes that there are two "equally positioned firms"; the firms compete on the basis of quantity rather than price and each firm makes an "output of decision assuming that the other firm's behavior is fixed." The market demand curve is assumed to be linear and marginal costs are constant. To find the Cournot–Nash equilibrium one determines how each firm reacts to a change in the output of the other firm. The path to equilibrium is a series of actions and reactions. The pattern continues until a point is reached where neither firm desires "to change what it is doing, given how it believes the other firm will react to any change." The equilibrium is the intersection of the two firm's reaction functions. The reaction function shows how one firm reacts to the quantity choice of the other firm. For example, assume that the firm 1's demand function is P = (M − Q2) − Q1 where Q2 is the quantity produced by the other firm and Q1 is the amount produced by firm 1, and M=60 is the market. Assume that marginal cost is CM=12. Firm 1 wants to know its maximizing quantity and price. Firm 1 begins the process by following the profit maximization rule of equating marginal revenue to marginal costs. Firm 1's total revenue function is RT = Q1 P = Q1(M − Q2 − Q1) = MQ1 − Q1 Q2 − Q12. The marginal revenue function is .[note 1]
Equation 1.1 is the reaction function for firm 1. Equation 1.2 is the reaction function for firm 2.
To determine the Cournot–Nash equilibrium you can solve the equations simultaneously. The equilibrium quantities can also be determined graphically. The equilibrium solution would be at the intersection of the two reaction functions. Note that if you graph the functions the axes represent quantities. The reaction functions are not necessarily symmetric. The firms may face differing cost functions in which case the reaction functions would not be identical nor would the equilibrium quantities.
The Bertrand model is essentially the Cournot–Nash model except the strategic variable is price rather than quantity.
The model assumptions are:
The only Nash equilibrium is PA = PB = MC.
Neither firm has any reason to change strategy. If the firm raises prices it will lose all its customers. If the firm lowers price P < MC then it will be losing money on every unit sold.
The Bertrand equilibrium is the same as the competitive result. Each firm will produce where P = marginal costs and there will be zero profits. A generalization of the Bertrand model is the Bertrand–Edgeworth model that allows for capacity constraints and more general cost functions.
According to this model, each firm faces a demand curve kinked at the existing price. The conjectural assumptions of the model are; if the firm raises its price above the current existing price, competitors will not follow and the acting firm will lose market share and second if a firm lowers prices below the existing price then their competitors will follow to retain their market share and the firm's output will increase only marginally.
If the assumptions hold then:
The gap in the marginal revenue curve means that marginal costs can fluctuate without changing equilibrium price and quantity. Thus prices tend to be rigid.
In industrialized economies, barriers to entry have resulted in oligopolies forming in many sectors, with unprecedented levels of competition fueled by increasing globalization. Market shares in an oligopoly are typically determined by product development and advertising. For example, there are now only a small number of manufacturers of civil passenger aircraft, though Brazil (Embraer) and Canada (Bombardier) have participated in the small passenger aircraft market sector. Oligopolies have also arisen in heavily-regulated markets such as wireless communications: in some areas only two or three providers are licensed to operate.
In an oligopoly, firms operate under imperfect competition. With the fierce price competitiveness created by this sticky-upward demand curve, firms use non-price competition in order to accrue greater revenue and market share.
"Kinked" demand curves are similar to traditional demand curves, as they are downward-sloping. They are distinguished by a hypothesized convex bend with a discontinuity at the bend–"kink". Thus the first derivative at that point is undefined and leads to a jump discontinuity in the marginal revenue curve.
Classical economic theory assumes that a profit-maximizing producer with some market power (either due to oligopoly or monopolistic competition) will set marginal costs equal to marginal revenue. This idea can be envisioned graphically by the intersection of an upward-sloping marginal cost curve and a downward-sloping marginal revenue curve (because the more one sells, the lower the price must be, so the less a producer earns per unit). In classical theory, any change in the marginal cost structure (how much it costs to make each additional unit) or the marginal revenue structure (how much people will pay for each additional unit) will be immediately reflected in a new price and/or quantity sold of the item. This result does not occur if a "kink" exists. Because of this jump discontinuity in the marginal revenue curve, marginal costs could change without necessarily changing the price or quantity.
The motivation behind this kink is the idea that in an oligopolistic or monopolistically competitive market, firms will not raise their prices because even a small price increase will lose many customers. This is because competitors will generally ignore price increases, with the hope of gaining a larger market share as a result of now having comparatively lower prices. However, even a large price decrease will gain only a few customers because such an action will begin a price war with other firms. The curve is therefore more price-elastic for price increases and less so for price decreases. Theory predicts that firms will enter the industry in the long run.
In economics and commerce, the Bertrand paradox — named after its creator, Joseph Bertrand — describes a situation in which two players (firms) reach a state of Nash equilibrium where both firms charge a price equal to marginal cost ("MC"). The paradox is that in models such as Cournot competition, an increase in the number of firms is associated with a convergence of prices to marginal costs. In these alternative models of oligopoly, a small number of firms earn positive profits by charging prices above cost.
Suppose two firms, A and B, sell a homogeneous commodity, each with the same cost of production and distribution, so that customers choose the product solely on the basis of price. It follows that demand is infinitely price-elastic. Neither A nor B will set a higher price than the other because doing so would yield the entire market to their rival. If they set the same price, the companies will share both the market and profits.
On the other hand, if either firm were to lower its price, even a little, it would gain the whole market and substantially larger profits. Since both A and B know this, they will each try to undercut their competitor until the product is selling at zero economic profit. This is the pure-strategy Nash equilibrium. Recent work has shown that there may be an additional mixed-strategy Nash equilibrium with positive economic profits under the assumption that monopoly profits are infinite. For the case of finite monopoly profits, it has been shown that positive profits under price competition are impossible in mixed equilibria and even in the more general case of correlated equilibria.The Bertrand paradox rarely appears in practice because real products are almost always differentiated in some way other than price (brand name, if nothing else); firms have limitations on their capacity to manufacture and distribute, and two firms rarely have identical costs.
Bertrand's result is paradoxical because if the number of firms goes from one to two, the price decreases from the monopoly price to the competitive price and stays at the same level as the number of firms increases further. This is not very realistic, as in reality, markets featuring a small number of firms with market power typically charge a price in excess of marginal cost. The empirical analysis shows that in most industries with two competitors, positive profits are made. Solutions to the Paradox attempt to derive solutions that are more in line with solutions from the Cournot model of competition, where two firms in a market earn positive profits that lie somewhere between the perfectly competitive and monopoly levels.
Some reasons the Bertrand paradox do not strictly apply:
Capacity constraints. Sometimes firms do not have enough capacity to satisfy all demand. This was a point first raised by Francis Edgeworth and gave rise to the Bertrand–Edgeworth model.
Integer pricing. Prices higher than MC are ruled out because one firm can undercut another by an arbitrarily small amount. If prices are discrete (for example have to take integer values) then one firm has to undercut the other by at least one cent. This implies that the price one cent above MC is now an equilibrium: if the other firm sets the price one cent above MC, the other firm can undercut it and capture the whole market, but this will earn it no profit. It will prefer to share the market 50/50 with the other firm and earn strictly positive profits.
Product differentiation. If products of different firms are differentiated, then consumers may not switch completely to the product with lower price.
Dynamic competition. Repeated interaction or repeated price competition can lead to the price above MC in equilibrium.
More money for higher price. It follows from repeated interaction: If one company sets their price slightly higher, then they will still get about the same amount of buys but more profit for each buy, so the other company will raise their price, and so on (only in repeated games, otherwise the price dynamics are in the other direction).
Oligopoly. If the two companies can agree on a price, it is in their long-term interest to keep the agreement: the revenue from cutting prices is less than twice the revenue from keeping the agreement and lasts only until the other firm cuts its own prices.Bertrand–Edgeworth model
In microeconomics, the Bertrand–Edgeworth model of price-setting oligopoly looks at what happens when there is a homogeneous product (i.e. consumers want to buy from the cheapest seller) where there is a limit to the output of firms which they are willing and able to sell at a particular price. This differs from the Bertrand competition model where it is assumed that firms are willing and able to meet all demand. The limit to output can be considered as a physical capacity constraint which is the same at all prices (as in Edgeworth’s work), or to vary with price under other assumptions.Competition (economics)
In economics, competition is a condition where different economic firms seek to obtain a share of a limited good by varying the elements of the marketing mix: price, product, promotion and place. In classical economic thought, competition causes commercial firms to develop new products, services and technologies, which would give consumers greater selection and better products. The greater selection typically causes lower prices for the products, compared to what the price would be if there was no competition (monopoly) or little competition (oligopoly).
Early economic research focused on the difference between price- and non-price-based competition, while later economic theory has focused on the many-seller limit of general equilibrium.Cournot competition
Cournot competition is an economic model used to describe an industry structure in which companies compete on the amount of output they will produce, which they decide on independently of each other and at the same time. It is named after Antoine Augustin Cournot (1801–1877) who was inspired by observing competition in a spring water duopoly. It has the following features:
An essential assumption of this model is the "not conjecture" that each firm aims to maximize profits, based on the expectation that its own output decision will not have an effect on the decisions of its rivals. Price is a commonly known decreasing function of total output. All firms know , the total number of firms in the market, and take the output of the others as given. Each firm has a cost function . Normally the cost functions are treated as common knowledge. The cost functions may be the same or different among firms. The market price is set at a level such that demand equals the total quantity produced by all firms. Each firm takes the quantity set by its competitors as a given, evaluates its residual demand, and then behaves as a monopoly.Differentiated Bertrand competition
As a solution to the Bertrand paradox in economics, it has been suggested that each firm produces a somewhat differentiated product, and consequently faces a demand curve that is downward-sloping for all levels of the firm's price.
An increase in a competitor's price is represented as an increase (for example, an upward shift) of the firm's demand curve.
As a result, when a competitor raises price, generally a firm can also raise its own price and increase its profits.Duopoly
A duopoly (from Greek δύο, duo (two) + πωλεῖν, polein (to sell)) is a form of oligopoly where two firms have dominant or exclusive control over a market. It is the most commonly studied form of oligopoly due to its simplicity.Imperfect competition
In economic theory, imperfect competition is a type of market structure showing some but not all features of competitive markets.Forms of imperfect competition include:
Monopolistic competition: A situation in which many firms with slightly different products compete. Production costs are above what may be achieved by perfectly competitive firms, but society benefits from the product differentiation.
Monopoly: A firm with no competitors in its industry. A monopoly firm produces less output, has higher costs, and sells its output for a higher price than it would if constrained by competition. These negative outcomes usually generate government regulation.
Oligopoly: An industry with only a few firms. If they collude, they form a cartel to reduce output and drive up profits the way a monopoly does.
Duopoly: A special form of Oligopoly, with only two firms in an industry.
Monopsony: A market with a single buyer and many sellers.
Oligopsony: A market with a few buyers and many sellers.Kinked demand
The Kinked-Demand curve theory is an economic theory regarding oligopoly and monopolistic competition. Kinked demand was an initial attempt to explain sticky prices.Market power
In economics and particularly in industrial organization, market power is the ability of a firm to profitably raise the market price of a good or service over marginal cost. In perfectly competitive markets, market participants have no market power. A firm with total market power can raise prices without losing any customers to competitors. Market participants that have market power are therefore sometimes referred to as "price makers" or "price setters", while those without are sometimes called "price takers". Significant market power occurs when prices exceed marginal cost and long run average cost, so the firm makes economic profit.
A firm with market power has the ability to individually affect either the total quantity or the prevailing price in the market. Price makers face a downward-sloping demand curve, such that price increases lead to a lower quantity demanded. The decrease in supply as a result of the exercise of market power creates an economic deadweight loss which is often viewed as socially undesirable. As a result, many countries have anti-trust or other legislation intended to limit the ability of firms to accrue market power. Such legislation often regulates mergers and sometimes introduces a judicial power to compel divestiture.
A firm usually has market power by virtue of controlling a large portion of the market. In extreme cases—monopoly and monopsony—the firm controls the entire market. However, market size alone is not the only indicator of market power. Highly concentrated markets may be contestable if there are no barriers to entry or exit, limiting the incumbent firm's ability to raise its price above competitive levels.
Market power gives firms the ability to engage in unilateral anti-competitive behavior. Some of the behaviours that firms with market power are accused of engaging in include predatory pricing, product tying, and creation of overcapacity or other barriers to entry. If no individual participant in the market has significant market power, then anti-competitive behavior can take place only through collusion, or the exercise of a group of participants' collective market power.
The Lerner index and Herfindahl index may be used to measure market power.Microeconomics
Microeconomics (from Greek prefix mikro- meaning "small" + economics) is a branch of economics that studies the behaviour of individuals and firms in making decisions regarding the allocation of scarce resources and the interactions among these individuals and firms.One goal of microeconomics is to analyze the market mechanisms that establish relative prices among goods and services and allocate limited resources among alternative uses. Microeconomics shows conditions under which free markets lead to desirable allocations. It also analyzes market failure, where markets fail to produce efficient results.
Microeconomics stands in contrast to macroeconomics, which involves "the sum total of economic activity, dealing with the issues of growth, inflation, and unemployment and with national policies relating to these issues". Microeconomics also deals with the effects of economic policies (such as changing taxation levels) on microeconomic behavior and thus on the aforementioned aspects of the economy. Particularly in the wake of the Lucas critique, much of modern macroeconomic theories has been built upon microfoundations—i.e. based upon basic assumptions about micro-level behavior.Monopoly
A monopoly (from Greek μόνος mónos ["alone" or "single"] and πωλεῖν pōleîn ["to sell"]) exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity. This contrasts with a monopsony which relates to a single entity's control of a market to purchase a good or service, and with oligopoly which consists of a few sellers dominating a market. Monopolies are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition to produce the good or service, a lack of viable substitute goods, and the possibility of a high monopoly price well above the seller's marginal cost that leads to a high monopoly profit. The verb monopolise or monopolize refers to the process by which a company gains the ability to raise prices or exclude competitors. In economics, a monopoly is a single seller. In law, a monopoly is a business entity that has significant market power, that is, the power to charge overly high prices. Although monopolies may be big businesses, size is not a characteristic of a monopoly. A small business may still have the power to raise prices in a small industry (or market).A monopoly is distinguished from a monopsony, in which there is only one buyer of a product or service; a monopoly may also have monopsony control of a sector of a market. Likewise, a monopoly should be distinguished from a cartel (a form of oligopoly), in which several providers act together to coordinate services, prices or sale of goods. Monopolies, monopsonies and oligopolies are all situations in which one or a few entities have market power and therefore interact with their customers (monopoly or oligopoly), or suppliers (monopsony) in ways that distort the market.Monopolies can be established by a government, form naturally, or form by integration.
In many jurisdictions, competition laws restrict monopolies. Holding a dominant position or a monopoly in a market is often not illegal in itself, however certain categories of behavior can be considered abusive and therefore incur legal sanctions when business is dominant. A government-granted monopoly or legal monopoly, by contrast, is sanctioned by the state, often to provide an incentive to invest in a risky venture or enrich a domestic interest group. Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are sometimes used as examples of government-granted monopolies. The government may also reserve the venture for itself, thus forming a government monopoly.Monopolies may be naturally occurring due to limited competition because the industry is resource intensive and requires substantial costs to operate.Oligopsony
An oligopsony (from Ancient Greek ὀλίγοι (oligoi) "few" + ὀψωνία (opsōnia) "purchase") is a market form in which the number of buyers is small while the number of sellers in theory could be large. This typically happens in a market for inputs where numerous suppliers are competing to sell their product to a small number of (often large and powerful) buyers. It contrasts with an oligopoly, where there are many buyers but few sellers. An oligopsony is a form of imperfect competition.
The terms monopoly (one seller), monopsony (one buyer), and bilateral monopoly have a similar relationship.Parallelism
Parallelism may refer to:
Angle of parallelism, in hyperbolic geometry, the angle at one vertex of a right hyperbolic triangle that has two hyperparallel sides
Conscious parallelism, price-fixing between competitors in an oligopoly that occurs without an actual spoken agreement between the parties
Parallelism (computing), the simultaneous execution on multiple processors of different parts of a program
In the analysis of parallel algorithms, the maximum possible speedup of a computation
Parallelism (evolution), the independent emergence of a similar trait in different, but closely related species
Parallelism (geometry), the property of parallel lines
Parallelism (grammar), a balance of two or more similar words, phrases, or clauses
Parallelism (rhetoric), the chief rhetorical device of Biblical poetry in Hebrew
Psychophysical parallelism, the theory that the conscious and nervous processes vary concomitantly
Parallel harmony/doubling, or harmonic parallelism, in musicPrice point
Price points are prices at which demand for a given product is supposed to stay relatively high.Seven Sisters (oil companies)
"Seven Sisters" was a common term for the seven transnational oil companies of the "Consortium for Iran" oligopoly or cartel, which dominated the global petroleum industry from the mid-1940s to the mid-1970s. Alluding to the seven mythological Pleiades sisters fathered by the titan Atlas, the business usage was popularized in the 1950s by businessman Enrico Mattei, then-head of the Italian state oil company Eni. The industry group consisted of:
Anglo-Iranian (started as Anglo-Persian) Oil Company (now BP)
Gulf Oil (later part of Chevron)
Royal Dutch Shell
Standard Oil Company of California (SoCal, now Chevron)
Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (Esso, later Exxon, now part of ExxonMobil)
Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony, later Mobil, also now part of ExxonMobil)
Texaco (later merged into Chevron)Preceding the 1973 oil crisis, the Seven Sisters controlled around 85 per cent of the world's petroleum reserves. Since then, industry dominance has shifted to the OPEC cartel and state-owned oil and gas companies in emerging-market economies, such as Saudi Aramco, Gazprom (Russia), China National Petroleum Corporation, National Iranian Oil Company, PDVSA (Venezuela), Petrobras (Brazil), and Petronas (Malaysia). In 2007, the Financial Times called these "the new Seven Sisters".According to consulting firm PFC Energy, by 2012 only 7% of the world's known oil reserves were in countries that allowed private international companies free rein. Fully 65% were in the hands of state-owned companies.Small-numbers game
In economics and decision theory, a small-numbers game is a situation in an oligopolistic market in which the actions of one player have direct unforeseeable consequences for other players.Stackelberg competition
The Stackelberg leadership model is a strategic game in economics in which the leader firm moves first and then the follower firms move sequentially. It is named after the German economist Heinrich Freiherr von Stackelberg who published Market Structure and Equilibrium (Marktform und Gleichgewicht) in 1934 which described the model.
In game theory terms, the players of this game are a leader and a follower and they compete on quantity. The Stackelberg leader is sometimes referred to as the Market Leader.
There are some further constraints upon the sustaining of a Stackelberg equilibrium. The leader must know ex ante that the follower observes its action. The follower must have no means of committing to a future non-Stackelberg leader's action and the leader must know this. Indeed, if the 'follower' could commit to a Stackelberg leader action and the 'leader' knew this, the leader's best response would be to play a Stackelberg follower action.
Firms may engage in Stackelberg competition if one has some sort of advantage enabling it to move first. More generally, the leader must have commitment power. Moving observably first is the most obvious means of commitment: once the leader has made its move, it cannot undo it - it is committed to that action. Moving first may be possible if the leader was the incumbent monopoly of the industry and the follower is a new entrant. Holding excess capacity is another means of commitment.Zero Hora
Zero Hora is a Brazilian newspaper based in the city of Porto Alegre, the sixth biggest of the country. It is edited by Grupo RBS.