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A mega merger is creating the world’s largest banana company - it has been announced that Chiquita of the USA and Dublin-based Fyffes will be merging to form a giant banana distribution company.read more...»
Regulation of prices through price capping has been a feature of regulation of the utilities in the UK for many years – although this is now being phased out as most utility markets have become more competitive.
Price capping systems
- Price capping is an alternative to rate-of-return regulation, in which utility businesses are allowed to achieve a given rate of return (or rate of profit) on capital.
- In the UK, price capping has been known as "RPI-X". This takes the rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index and subtracts expected efficiency savings X. So for example, if inflation is 5% and X is 3% then an industry can raise their prices on average by only 2% per year
- In the water industry, the formula is "RPI - X + K", where K is based on capital investment requirements designed to improve water quality and meet EU water quality standards. This has meant increases in the real cost of water bills for millions of households in the UK.
Capping is an appropriate way to curtail the monopoly power of “natural monopolies” – preventing them from making excessive profits at the expense of consumers
Cuts in the real price levels are good for household and industrial consumers (leading to an increase in consumer surplus and higher real living standards in the long run).
Price capping helps to stimulate improvements in productive efficiency because lower costs are needed to increase a producer’s profits.
- The price capping system is a tool for controlling consumer price inflation in the UK.
Price caps have led to large numbers of job losses in the utility industries
Setting different price capping regimes for each industry distorts the price mechanismread more...»
The Atlas of Economic Complexity is a new book (perfect for the coffee table) from Richard Hausmann and Cesar Hidalgo. It maps out the degree of complexity of individual economies around the world and provides a hugely visual and interesting insight into the importance of knowledge in shaping the future prosperity of countries in the global economy. I have put together a 10 question quiz on some of their key results - a useful activity I hope for students interested in the commodity composition of trade of developed and developing countries. Have a go!read more...»
Most of the commentary on the UK’s economic recovery focuses on consumers. Are they taking on too much debt again to finance their spending? Is there a bubble in house prices, as people get excited about bricks and mortar again? Certainly, in terms of its sheer size, spending by consumers is by far the biggest component of GDP, making up around 60 per cent of total domestic expenditure.read more...»
The UK’s biggest companies remain biased when appointing women to their boards, according to new research by Dr Ian Gregory-Smith and colleagues, published in the February 2014 issue of the Economic Journalread more...»
Despite public calls for shareholders to get tough on executive pay, a new study of the UK’s highest paid company directors reveals that shareholders are overwhelmingly inclined to approve the pay packets of top directors, just as they were before the crisisread more...»
In a bold move in the continuing battle between Facebook and Google to dominate the next phase of digital / mobile growth, Mark Zuckerberg's listed business has agreed an £11bn acquisition of WhatsApp - a deal to be paid in a combination of cash and shares.
The total value of the deal is staggering high for a business that employs just over 50 people.
- The price Facebook is paying for WhatsApp is more than ten times what Google spent on YouTube
- It is more than 20 times what Facebook paid for Instagram
- The $19bn paid for WhatsApp works out at $40 for each of its 450m users!
- The $19bn deal to buy WhatsApp is more than 10% of the annual value of Ukranian GDP
What are some of the justifications for such a mega-priced deal?read more...»
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Germany was seen by many as the new ‘Sick Man of Europe’. Between 1991 and 2005, GDP growth averaged only 1.2 per cent a year, compared to 3.3 per cent in the UK. Since then, the German economy has revived dramatically. The recovery in the German cluster of economies from the financial crisis has been as strong as in the United States, with the previous peak level of output being regained in 2011. Germany itself experienced virtually no increase in unemployment in 2008 and 2009, its exports are at record levels, and even the crisis in the Euro area has not prevented expansion in both output and employment.read more...»
This is an updated revision presentation on aspects of monopolistic competition in marketsread more...»
A great case study on the BBC about what has been driving up the price of almonds. Plenty of topics to explore in here: agricultural supply, determinants of demand, derived demand (almond milk), monopoly power, capital intensive production and maybe more.
The market for in-flight wifi is dominated by one service provider and tends to be slow and expensive. This article provides some background. It is an interesting example to think about when considering the different types of economic efficiency i.e. allocative, productive and dynamic. Less than 10% of airline users take up the wifi offer! Consider reasons for this that go beyond the high price! When was the last time you either used or wanted to use wifi on a flight?
If you attended the recent tutor2u revision conferences for up-coming micro-economic exams (look out for the macro workshops and combined micro and macro to come in March) you will have seen how fuel-pricing was used as an example of market failure, government intervention strategies and government failure.
Fortunately, the energy market is a gift that keeps giving to us in the economics world (every cloud has a silver lining) as a report out today (see this link for the BBC version of the story) indicates that Parliament is about to intervene to try and stop the energy companies charging more to customers who pay by cash rather than by direct debit (£114 per year, according to the report).read more...»
Here is a really well produced and clear visual explanation of the Hotelling model of spatial location. As two competitive cousins vie for ice-cream-selling domination on one small beach, discover how game theory and the Nash Equilibrium inform these retail hot-spots. A good short video to use when teaching or learning about game theory.
For more ....Tutor2u's Introduction to Game Theoryread more...»
The cost of a thirty second advertising slot at the annual Superbowl final is immense. This year advertisers are paying $4 million dollars for a 30 second advertisement during America's largest televised event. But big hits on the social web often produced at a tiny fraction of the cost challenge the conventional view that mega bucks spent reaching a TV audience remains a viable way of using the marketing dollars. This short news video from the Financial Times is a useful reminder of the importance attached to brand advertising by some of America's biggest consumer products.read more...»
Here is an updated revision presentation on aspects of perfect competition - A2 economics revision notes can be found hereread more...»
Here are ten multiple choice revision questions covering the topic business objectivesread more...»
Here are ten multiple choice revision questions covering the topic contestable marketsread more...»
Here is an updated revision presentation on satisficing as an alternative to profit maximisation and also some of the factors affecting the profitability of a business such as Stagecoach plc - A2 economics revision notes can be found hereread more...»
It was announced yesterday that the Government is planning to abandon its use of expensive software such as Microsoft Office (see article in the Guardian here) partly as a way of reducing costs but also as a means of breaking some of the software company's 'oligopolistic' stranglehold on the market.
As well as offering an example of Government policy to combat market failure, this story gives us a little insight into the issue of contestability in the software industry.read more...»
So farewell, then, Facebook! That is the conclusion of a highly technical paper by two Princeton researchers, John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler, which received a lot of publicity in the press last week. The authors conclude that “Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 per cent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017”.read more...»
Here is an updated revision presentation on short run revenues and profits for businesses - A2 economics revision notes can be found hereread more...»
Here is an updated revision presentation on short run costs for businesses - A2 economics revision notes can be found hereread more...»
Here is an updated revision presentation on fixed and variable costs for businesses - A2 economics revision notes can be found hereread more...»
Capping seems to be all the rage at the moment. We read of capping electricity and gas prices, capping welfare payments for families ... and now a proposed cap on bonuses for bankers is being put forward by the EU and by the Labour Party.
In this article, Tim Harford cuts to the chase and highlights the contradictions in the EU blanket policy on capping bankers' bonuses. It is a good example of a policy where the unintended consequences include the probably that banking salaries would rise still further.
Under the EU proposal, a cap on rewards would limit payouts to banking executives to annual pay - or twice that only if shareholders approve.
BBC Hard Talk: Adair Turner on the effect of a bonus cap on bank salariesread more...»
We have been discussing the economics of innovation in class in the last few days. I came across this short talk given by David Rowan, editor of Wired magazine. What sets disruptive entrepreneurs and innovators apart from the rest? In his INK talk, David Rowan, editor of Wired UK, asserts it’s a “healthy disregard for the impossible” and offers nine tips for cultivating that mindset.read more...»
Here is a beautifully crafted essayby leading economist John Kay on the dangers of an academic obsession with rigour and consistency in developing economic models. "Economics is not a technique in search of problems but a set of problems in need of solution. Such problems are varied and the solutions will inevitably be eclectic." He argues for a move away from formulating models that can simply run on a computer and towards "more eclectic analysis ....requiring an understanding of processes of belief formation, anthropology, psychology and organisational behaviour, and meticulous observation of what people, businesses, and governments actually do."
A rather wonderful piece that will excite many ambitious student economists keen to approach our fantastic subject in a non-linear and often contrarian way. Enjoy!
What type of business integration is happening here? The announcement of Google's takeover of smart home-appliance maker Nest for $3.2bn is potentially hugely significant for Google.read more...»
Here is a great overview from the Economist of some of the ideas behind lean start-ups and the shift in focus towards frequent / hi-speed reaction to customer feedback as minimum viable products are launched into the market-place. Conventional views of entrepreneurs are evolving fast but they still need to have that driving energy and a willingness to challenge orthodoxy! The Eric Ries book - The Lean Entrepreneur - is given extensive mentions here and rightly so.
The pharmaceutical (medicines) industry poses interesting questions for economists.read more...»
A great case study in The Economist, ideal for those of you wanting to link business economics theory to a clearly relevant case study.read more...»
Here are 12 questions (type the answer) on aspects of market structures for unit 3 economicsread more...»
Here are some examples of changes in the nature of non-price competition in the oligopolistic supermarket industry. The success of the My Waitrose card (now used by 3 million customers) has catapulted Waitrose into 2nd place for the largest retailer of hot tea and coffee drinks in the UK. They are now second only to McDonald's and some distance ahead of Costa, Starbucks and other well-known high street brands.read more...»
Volume car production has been surging in recent years in many Eastern European countries - this FT news video provides some of the background and offers some revealing insights into the complex sources of competitive advantage in a key industrial sector.
The vehicles that roll off the production line at the Czech company's state-of-the-art car plant near Prague now outstrip many western rivals not only on cost but on reliability and finish too.read more...»
Peter Marsh, formerly the manufacturing editor of the Financial Times, has let me know of the imminent launch of an unusual and interesting photographic project linked to the world of manufacturing. It's an exhibition of pictures of UK manufacturing operations taken by some of the world's top photographers and which will tour Britain from the end of January to September next year.read more...»
Event cinema is set to become big business both in fully digital cinemas in the UK. Cinemas that have invested in the very best digital screening technology can now harness their capacity to run non-conventional programming including live theatre, multi-player gaming and screening of live sporting events.
Tim Richards from Vue Cinemas (one of Tutor2u's major commercial partners) is interviewed here by the Economist about the opportunities of event cinema to serve a more diverse audience and leverage the assets of a cinema to improve profitability.
Vue has certainly been in the forefront of making huge investments in fully digital projection on huge screens - this is just one of the reasons we love hosting live Tutor2u events in some of the top Vue facilities in the UK.
Watch the six minute interview and consider some of the non-price factors that are important in winning the battle for market share in the cinema industry and in broadening the appeal of cinemas to a wider range of audiences and tastes.read more...»
You may have seen news reports today about the Competition Commission announcing that it will continue its investigation into the car insurance market having decided that there are concerns to be addressed. The headlines concentrate on the market failure caused by the current system of non-fault claimants organising their own replacement vehicles (and then charging the at-fault insurers) but I thought it was just as interesting that the CC are looking at the relationship between the insurers and price comparison websites.read more...»
If you didn't quite grasp the importance of agglomeration economies in driving and sustaining growth and wealth creation in cities, then this wonderful piece from Bridget Rosewall will do it I am sure! It highlights the importance of vision and a willingness to take risks in bond-funded infrastructure projects in London (and elsewhere). Bridget Rosewall's new short book is available direct from the publishers - click here for details
The phrase ‘industrial policy’ seems to take us decades back in time. In 1964, a powerful catchphrase of the new Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, was the need for Britain to embrace the ‘white heat of the technological revolution’. Sadly, by the 1970s this vision had deteriorated into a list of institutions, stuffed with dull businessmen and trade unionists, meeting to decide how to prop up yet another failed sector of the UK economy.
But the concept is now back in vogue. Perhaps surprisingly, given the historical experience, the coalition chose to preserve Labour’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) quango. The TSB has a budget of £400 million to “accelerate UK economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation”. A key way in which it plans to do this is through the purchasing decisions of the public sector.read more...»
Boris Johnson has got into trouble for his statement that it is "surely relevant to a conversation about equality" that just 2 per cent of “our species” has an IQ over 130. Over the past couple of years, the Occupy movement has made headlines by attacking the top 1 per cent.
The summer 2013 edition of the top American Journal of Economic Perspectives focuses specifically on the “Top 1 Per Cent”. This is written almost exclusively in English rather than maths, and top economists debate a range of intriguing questions.read more...»
Employees in the UK are not being denied their fair share of economic growth, according to research by João Paulo Pessoa and Professor John Van Reenen, director of the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE. Their investigation of claims that wage growth has become ‘decoupled’ from productivity growth finds that decoupling has been overstated and cannot be used to justify redressing the balance between wages and profits.read more...»
The release of two major new iterations of games console including the PS4 is an opportune moment to take stock of the transformation of the oligopolistic computer gaming industry into one whose revenues now exceed films and where social gaming, connectivity and collaboration are features of an industry where dynamic efficiency is crucial. Paul Mason from Channel 4 news reports in this short clip.read more...»
Price fixing and bid rigging by groups of firms in Europe are not solely the preserve of highly concentrated industries. According to research by Professor Stephan Davies and Dr Oindrila De, even industries with relatively large numbers of firms feature such anti-competitive practices – and they typically have a ‘ringleader’, which organises and enforces the cartel. Their study, published in the November 2013 issue of the Economic Journal, finds that roughly a quarter of the 89 cartels detected by the European Commission over the past two decades have a ringleader or ringleaders. In cartels with relatively large numbers of firms, the ringleader tends to be the dominant firm, acting aggressively to set prices and ensure that smaller firms fall in line.read more...»
I don’t know the answer to the question I've just posed, but I think the recent news about RBS raises some interesting issues about the perceived zombie problem in the UK economy.read more...»
The Third Plenum has finished in China and with it has come some potentially significant reforms designed to rebalance the Chinese economy and shape future growth and development. The BBC's Linda Yueh has been prominent in reporting on this crucial stage of Chinese development and we have linked below to some of her recent output broadcast on the BBC.read more...»
The launch of Sony's PS4 alongside Microsoft's XBox One signals the beginning of a highly intense competitive battle in the oligopolistic games console market. With both the new consoles being launched in time for the crucial Christmas sales period, pricing strategy is crucial in order to gain maximum market share.
In the US, Sony has priced the PS4 at $399 (retail). Of course that is the retail price. Distributors will be wanting to make their margin on each unit sold. So how much does it cost Sony to make a new PS4?read more...»
Here is a revision presentation on the economics of producer and consumer subsidies as forms of government intervention in markets. There are a number of up to date examples highlighted together with an evaluation of the benefits and costs of subsidy payments. This is designed as a revision aid for unit 1 students taking their microeconomics papers.read more...»
There has been lots of talk in the media recently about the supermarkets’ Christmas advertising campaigns.
Sainsbury’s have employed an Oscar winning director for their campaign, although he failed to spot the Co-op’s own brand range in the background, Tesco stole a march on the others by starting their advertising campaign on a Friday, which makes a lot of sense, but Asda wanted to get maximum exposure by launching their campaign during X-Factor, the most watched program on commercial television. No doubt Morrison’s will be launching their Christmas campaign sometime in late January….read more...»
The numbers are breath-taking and they reflect the growing scale and prominence of Gulf air carriers in the international aviation market. Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways together have just ordered over 200 of new Boeing 777X aircraft, a more fuel-efficient version of the 777 jumbo. Here we have the monopsony power of major buyers coming face to face with the duopolistic market power of the dominant aircraft manufacturers - US plane maker Boeing, and European rival Airbus.
Check out our revision notes on monopsony power using the link belowread more...»
This BBC news report is superb background for students who want a mini case study of the potential of mobile technology in improving farm yields and incomes for farmers in developing countries. A 29-year-old developer from Ghana has created a mobile app that he hopes will transform the livelihoods of farmers and help address food shortagesread more...»