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De-mergers often figure in EdExcel Unit 3 questions e.g. on the structured multiple choice - so this one from mining giant BHP Billiton is a good example to be aware of and to understand the key drivers behind the decision. BHP Billiton plan to sell (divest) non-core assets such as their aluminium, manganese and nickel mines.
As always - focusing on core competencies, streamlining operations to avoid diseconomies of scale lie at the heart of the de-merger process
BHP Billiton is hugely profitable! BHP achieved full-year profits last year of $US13.8bn helped by a 15th straight year of record iron ore production.
More here on the planned demerger from Reuters Business Newsread more...»
This article from the BBC news site is excellent for teachers and students wanting some applied examples of businesses that have succeeded in building through organic growth a durable market presence in the USA and some examples of bigger names / corporations that have failed.What are the key ingredients? How do import tariffs affect a business such as Brompton Bikes?
Why do we get summer holiday blockbusters? They seem to matter more and more to Hollywood studios. According to one professor "the entertainment industry is moving more towards a winner-take-all-market". Yet it wasn't supposed to be like this. A best-selling 2008 book, The Long Tail, argued that the mainstream was going to be "shattered into a zillion different cultural shards," as fickle consumers "scattered to the winds" using the internet to find the books, films and songs that met their unique taste. So what might be going on?read more...»
An almost perfect example of price discrimination is evident in this market revealed on the BBC online news site - read this section carefully!
"Charges vary for some motorists, even if they are picking up the same vehicle from the same location and from the same hire company."
Then read through the article to find clues as to how some vehicle hire businesses have been able to segment the market and discriminate between drivers from different countries inside the EU.
The regulators are onto the issue - expect some action unless vehicle hire businesses adjust their pricing tactics!read more...»
If you are looking for a good recent example of how takeovers can destroy returns for shareholders (of the investing business), then add Morrison’s purchase of Kiddicare to the list!read more...»
P&G has announced that it will look to focus on a much smaller number of consumer brands and cull up to 100 brands from its extensive product portfolio. In a classic example of product portfolio management, P&G wants to focus on those 70-80 key brands that have existing strong market shares and/or fast growth prospects.read more...»
Tata Group, perhaps best known in the UK for its ownership of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Corus, has set out ambitious plans to invest $35bn in capital spending over the next three years as part of its vision for the next 10 years.read more...»
This video report from BBC Global Business looks at the success of a very small scale bakery located in an isolated mountain our region of Spain.read more...»
In this blog, Professor Simon Wren-Lewis from Oxford University bemoans the absence of debate over the notion of a maximum wage - with specific reference to the pay of senior executives.read more...»
This is a super report from BBC Newsnight on the issue of our throwaway society and the externalities of waste. How can the link between consumption and the discarding of unwanted and broken products be weakened? What role can innovation play - for example the rise of modular phones where parts can be replaced when broken. The fundamental problem is that traditional manufacturing business models are based on mass production and sales. How are increasing world commodity prices affecting this model?read more...»
People do care about fairness, social norms and not just about a cold calculation of marginal cost and marginal benefit. In this excellent short interview on BBC World, Joe Gladstone, Behavioural Scientist at the University of Cambridge, discusses the new form of "Pay What You Want" pricing. This means consumers can decide themselves how much they want to pay for a good or service. The catalyst is that several French hotels are experimenting with a pay what you like approach for their guests.read more...»
An important part of the CrossRail project has been decided with the news that the £1.4bn contract to run the new Crossrail service through London from 2018 has been awarded to Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation.read more...»
This interview with Jurgen Maier of Siemens is well worth reading on several different levels. It challenges the conventional wisdom that UK will always lag behind Germany in terms of high value added manufacturing; it refers to the economics risks of Brexit (Britain leaving the EU) and it also stresses the importance to the UK of foreign investment from German businesses many of which have been in the Uk since well before the first World War - Siemens and Bosch are two well-known examples.read more...»
Shareholder activism regarding executive pay is covered in this article from the Guardian. Note too the emergence of TNT Post as a competitor in the cities for final mile delivery of business and household mail - the mail market is becoming more contestable.
The Royal Mail's latest market report is an interesting read for those who want to study market dynamics in more details - for example the continued growth (but high contestability) in parcels contrasted with a trend decline in the volume of letters sent through the post - click here for the 2014 market overview: http://ar2013-14.royalmailgroup.com/overview/marke...
Today’s announcement that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are recommending that the High Street Banks’ provision of current accounts should be investigated for lack of competition may not surprise many. The case study may be valuable when looking at competition in oligopolistic markets and a report can be found from this link. The BBC take on the story can be found from this link.
I also thought it offered a chance to do some calculations! Given my current theme of bringing the new levels of assessment of numeracy and quantitative methods in the 2015 specifications of A level economics ever increasingly to the attention of our teaching community, where better to do some number work than when looking at market share in the banking industry!read more...»
The UK Financial Conduct Authority has announced direct interventions in the market for payday loans - the high cost short term loans market which has expanded rapidly in recent years led by businesses such as Wonga. The decision is the result of a detailed assessment of the industry which had flagged up a number of market failures.read more...»
Here is a short video featuring Mike Kitson from Cambridge University explaining the role universities play in knowledge exchange with businessesread more...»
According to some sources, Dropbox was the 37th online storage solution to be developed for the web - but despite early failures and late entry it has emerged as the cloud storage product of choice for over 300 million people. The firm is now estimated to be worth about £5.9bn.
This BBC article looks at the background to the story. Article can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27579790read more...»
Here is a short FT background video on the challenges facing established food retailers in the UK. The supermarket is under pressure. They face competition from both hard discounters and upmarket retailers. The FT's Andrea Felsted visits Romford, on the outskirts of London, to examine how supermarkets are adapting to their new retail landscape. The Guardian's articles in changing competition in the food retail sector provide some excellent background pieces - click here to access: http://www.theguardian.com/business/supermarketsread more...»
When the Channel Tunnel opened in May 1994 bosses of many ferry companies were glum. But it was the backers of the channel tunnel who lost a fortune: according to The Economist (the source of the graph above), the train through the tunnel was meant to carry 28m passengers a year by 2010. Ferries were expected to lose foot passengers, cars and lorries. Like many predictions in business, this soon came to seem wrong; now it seems wrong only in the timing. Now it looks like competition in the market may be about to collapse, with ferries coming under increasing pressure.read more...»
Here is your starter for ten. What do the Uber app and David Ricardo have in common? Ricardo, I hear you ask. Scarcely known outside academic economics, he ranks equal with Adam Smith and Keynes as the greatest ever British economist. His classic Principles of Political Economy was published in 1816. He made millions of pounds on the stock market, at a time when a million was a vast amount of money.read more...»
Technology always disrupts markets. It provides dynamic efficiency improvements, creates new markets, destroys old ones, and in some cases destroys monopolies and in others, creates new monopolies.read more...»
The supermarket giant Tesco is under increasing pressure! Tesco is Britain’s biggest retailer (it has 29% of the UK groceries market) and the biggest private-sector employer, and it runs about 7,000 stores worldwide. But it is facing significant commercial challenges from discount retailers such as Aldi and Lidl and seems to be squeezed in the middle as other shoppers look for the value proposition in stores such as Waitrose. Their recent trading figures made for sorry reading. For the three months to 24 May 2014, Tesco said like-for-like UK sales including VAT and excluding petrol fell 3.7%.
Is there a case for breaking up Tesco and getting the business to re-focus on what it does best? Two journalists from the Financial Times argue it out in the video below:read more...»
Trams have been experiencing a revival in a number of towns and cities in the past few decades. Edinburgh is the latest city to invest in trams, and hopes they will boost local economy. But do the benefits outweigh costs? Manchester, Sheffield, Blackpool, Nottingham, Newcastle and Croydon have all installed trams / light rail and others are considering investment.
The Edinburgh trams at running (at last) but the jury will remain out for a long time about their net impact on economic activity, traffic congestion and the broader health of Edinburgh and the local environs.read more...»
An important judgement from the newly established Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). They believe that competition is best served by having three major cross-channel service operators - namely EuroTunnel (rail) and two ferry operators.
The CMA has ruled against EuroTunnel being able to cross-subsidise the loss-making MyFerryLink on the Dover to Calais service because in doing so, it is likely to lead to the market exit of a rival provider and ultimately cause higher prices for consumers.read more...»
Until the 3rd of June we are making available in streamed format the Unit 3 Business economics revision companion - a superb resource for AQA and ExExcel in particularread more...»
What do prices mean and how are they set. A recent BBC World of Business podcast explored this and other issues.read more...»
A good article in The Economist recently, arguing that firms may be cramming markets in order to keep rivals out. Raising barriers to entry serves to reduce the levels of competition in markets, or makes them less ‘contestable’.read more...»
The prospects of significant wage increases for typical UK workers are bleak, according to Professors David Blanchflower and Stephen Machin writing in the Spring 2014 issue of CentrePiece magazine from the London School of Economics.
It is quite clear that the economy is still well below full employment and there is a large amount of slack in the labour market, they say. There is little evidence of widespread skill shortages, which would push up wages; and public sector pay freezes with continuing redundancies continue to push down on workers’ bargaining power.read more...»
Here is a streamed version of a revision presentation on the Crossrail project, a good example to use when teaching transport economics and the main principles and issues governing a cost benefit analysis approach to infrastructure investment appraisal. It is designed for use with AS and A2 economics students.read more...»
Tanzanian cola producers are taking on Coca Cola and making headway in the battle for market share. Despite economic growth, there is a fragile middle class vulnerable to changes in world commodity prices and unstable employment and wages. This opens up an opportunity for indigenous food and drinks manufacturers who might be able to supply products at a lower price harnessing environmental aims such as recycling the majority of plastic bottles used.read more...»
Investigating and understanding price fixing and collusion are an important part of analysing behaviour in oligopolistic markets. Not all of these corrupt practices are headline grabbers: most are in such unglamorous areas as ball-bearings and cargo rates, which go on unnoticed for years, quietly bumping up the end cost to consumers of all manner of goods and services.
What steps can be taken to undermine the incentives for business to engage in these illegal activities?read more...»
This blog entry brings together some of our revision resources on these crucial aspects of the theory of the firm. Scroll down below for revision notes, presentations and online quizzes for your to check your understanding.read more...»
Here is a selection of key diagrams for the Unit 3 business economics courseread more...»
Here is a good applied example of how fiscal policy can be used to help improve the UK's net trade position. Export finance is often a problem especially for small and medium sized businesses looking to expand beyond the domestic economy to new export markets. Improving the trade position is a key aspect of re-balancing the economy and make the recovery more sustainable.
Here is an example of reverse capital-labour substitution! A hat tip to Dave Sowden for spotting this one! Read through the article and consider the motivations, opportunities and challenges facing Toyota with this change of approach.
The Premier League season draws to an exciting close. It is by no means clear who will be champions, or who will gain the coveted top five European qualifying spots. There could even be a surprise. If Liverpool win, for the first time since 1995 a team from outside Manchester and North London will be crowned. Even then it was Blackburn. In the previous 21 seasons of the Premier League, all the winners have come from either the North West or London. So a Scouse victory would not alter this.read more...»
Membership of the European Union (EU) has had a big positive effect on average incomes in all but one of its member countries. That is the central finding of research by Nauro Campos, Fabrizio Coricelli and Luigi Moretti, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2014 annual conference. They also find that the more financially developed countries have grown significantly faster after joining the EU.read more...»
According to the Guardian, Carpetright and four other flooring and furniture retailers have promised to clean up their pricing after reaching a settlement with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). It looks like a good example of the potential for market failure arising out of asymmetric information.read more...»
Today, the world's largest mining company, BHP-Billiton, has signalled that it is considering demerger and slimming the business, as a way of improving productivity and performance. However, is there more to this than meets the eye?read more...»
The big six energy firms in the UK - who account for more than ninety per cent of suppliers to UK household, commercial and industrial consumers - will be subject to another investigation by the competition authorities.
A report by regulator Ofgem has called for an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which could take nearly two years to complete - effectively pushing the issue into the long grass well beyond the date of the next election.read more...»
Here is a selection of short extracts on the Royal Mail and the changing structure of the industry. I have been using them when teaching Unit 3 business economics - it strikes me as an excellent case study for revising lots of parts of the course. I have added some links below to recent media coverage of Royal Mail stories.read more...»
A number of students have been asking me about suggested reading for and introductions to the study of management as they look ahead to a UCAS application in the autumn. Here are some thoughts.read more...»
I thought it worthwhile sharing my resources which I have been collecting for students (and teachers alike). I have been promoting them on Twitter (@Economics_KSF) through scoop.it but for those of you not on there, the link for the scoop.it boards are here:read more...»
The development of India, or its non-development relative to China, is an interesting topic, and one that Bob Hindle has already been blogged about in relation to its tax system.
However, there are other aspects of the Indian economy that will also impede its ability to grow, notably its lack (or should that be 'lakh'?) of coal.read more...»
Elinor Ostrom was the first and so far only women to win a Nobel Prize in Economics (strictly speaking the Swedish bank prize) in 2009 for her work on commons. According to the biologist Garrett Hardin, in an example familiar to A level economic students, unowned or collectively owned resources, say a fishing ground, tend to get trashed because of over use.
The 'tragedy of the common' happens because people may over fish or destroy environments because of the free rider effect. One person who fishes less is discouraged from doing so because others may simply fish more, until the fish stocks run out. Ostrom looked at how local communities could organise to stop such over exploitation without government regulation. She found that instead of 'tragedy' sometimes the commons worked quite well.read more...»
If you are looking for a solid example of a manufacturing industry that experienced deep long term structural contraction then the UK steel sector is a good one to use.
Global steel output has more than doubled in the last four years but what remains of the UK steel industry is battling against rising costs and the challenge of meeting stringent climate change policies. The Financial Times visits Celsa's plant in Cardiff to find out if UK steelmakers still have a viable future. Can British producers take advantage of a rebound in steel output and profits if the European Union economy shows signs of a more durable and stronger recovery?read more...»
The government wants more new homes to be built, so too do hard-pressed home-buyers facing a continued problem of low property affordability. But cautious construction companies are reluctant to press ahead favouring share buy-backs (returning money to their shareholders) and only a limited expansion of new building.read more...»
Here is a revealing quote from a special study published in March 2014
"Simply put, too much of the city’s essential infrastructure remains stuck in the 20th Century—a problem for a city positioning itself to compete with other global cities in today’s 21st Century economy."
Which city do you think this report was referring to?read more...»
In recent times, pop up shops (retail outlets available on very short term leases) have grown in popularity. In part this has been because of the increase in vacant retail space during and in the aftermath of the last recession. But increasingly other organisation are thinking about using their locations as opportunities to attract small retailers and/or retail start-ups.
Transport for London is one such example. TfL owns more than 1,000 retail properties and this week TFL has signed a deal with Appear Here, an ‘online property agency’, to allow pop-up shops and restaurants in its tube stations. Consider the business potential for this kind of retail investment. Old Street is earmarked for this experiment - it is just a short walk from Silicon Roundabout in Shoreditch - the home of hundreds of emerging tech start up businesses.