# Introduction to Oligopoly. Recall: Oligopoly ▫An industry with only a few sellers. ▫Also characterized by interdependence  A relationship in which the.

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Introduction to Oligopoly

Recall: Oligopoly ▫An industry with only a few sellers. ▫Also characterized by interdependence  A relationship in which the outcome (profit) of each firm depends upon the actions of the other firms in the market ▫Firms must observe and predict the behavior of other firms.

Understanding Oligopoly ▫Duopoly Example  Duopoly is an oligopoly that consists of only two firms. Each firm is known as a duopolist. ▫Hypothetical Example: Two firms that produce Lysine  Assume that once a company has incurred the fixed cost needed to produce lysine the MC of producing another pound is zero.  Companies are concerned only with the revenue they receive from sales.

Demand Schedule for Lysine Price of Lysine (per pound)Quantity of lysine demanded (per million)Total Revenue (millions) \$120 0 1110 110 1020 200 930 270 840 320 750 350 660 360 570 350 480 320 390 270 2100 200 1110 110 0120 0

 How much will the two firms produce?  One possibility is the two companies will engage in collusion: in other words they will cooperate to raise their joint profits. ▫Strongest form of collusion is a cartel; a group of producers with an agreement to work together to limit output and increase price and therefore profit. ▫World’s most famous cartel is OPEC

 If the two companies formed a cartel, how would they determine how much to produce and how to divide the profits.  Keep in mind even if both sides come to an agreement each side has an incentive to break its word and produce more than the agreed upon amount.

Collusion and Competition ▫So why cheat?  Recall:  Quantity Effect: One more unit is sold, increasing total revenue by the price at which it is sold.  Price Effect: in order to sell one more unit, the monopolist must cut the market price on all units sold.

 Duopolists suffer a negative price effect if one firm decides to produce extra lysine, which will in turn drive down price. However each firm only cares about the portion of the negative price effect that falls on the lysine it produces.  This tells us that an individual firm in an oligopolistic industry faces a smaller price effect. So its marginal revenue would seem higher.

 It would seem profitable for any one firm in an oligopoly to increase production, even if that increase reduces the profits of the industry, even if that increase reduces the profits of the industry as a whole.  Problem with this is if everyone thinks this way then everyone earns a lower profit.

▫The question then becomes for the duopolists is to either engage in collusion or noncooperative behavior.  Noncooperative behavior is where each firm ignores the effect of their own actions on each other’s profits.  Since collusion is ultimately more profitable than noncooperative behavior, firms have an incentive to collude if they can

 One way is to formalize it.  Sign an agreement or establish some financial incentives for the companies to set their prices high. ▫In the United States and other nations firms cannot do this because it is illegal.

▫Competing with Prices versus Competing with Quantities  Often firms will develop strategies for making the best of situation depending on what they know, or assume, about the other firms behavior.

 Types of models to help oligopolists compete  Bertrand model (price competition model) ▫Oligopolists repeatedly undercut each others’ prices until price reaches the level of marginal cost, as under perfect competition.  Cournot model (quantity competition model) ▫Each oligopolist treats the output of its competitors as fixed and restricts output to that quantity that will maximize profit given the fixed output of others. ▫Result of this model is lower overall output levels, higher prices and each firm earns a positive economic profit.

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