George Houpis and David Parker, Directors at Frontier (Europe), both contributed to the 13th Association of Competition Economics (ACE) annual conference, held at Bocconi University, Milan.
George joined an expert panel which explored ex-post studies on mergers and entry in mobile markets. Other panel members were Luca Aguzzoni (part of the Chief Economist Team of the European Commission) and Professor Tommaso Valletti (Imperial College, London). George presented the results of a Frontier analysis of past mobile mergers. Using data from a number of European countries between 2000 and 2012, Frontier’s study found no significant relationship between ‘4-to-3’ mergers and outcome measures such as unit prices and capital expenditure per subscriber. George also acted as a discussant for studies presented by other panel members, which found some evidence of a positive relationship between concentration and headline prices. He urged caution on the usefulness of these results for assessment of future mergers, in particular as they do not consider the impact of past mergers on quality and usage, which alongside prices are important drivers of which mobile operator consumers choose. This is particularly the case in an increasingly data-centric market.
David spoke as part of another expert panel examining retail mergers in the UK, with a particular focus on the Phase 2 unconditional clearance of the Poundland/99p Stores merger. Other panel members were Kate Collyer and Paul Tregear of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). While agreeing with the outcome of the case, David identified significant omissions in the CMA’s case relating to the analysis of the prospects for entry. He also commented on the CMA’s revenue impact analysis, which did not measure competitive impacts directly, and rather inferred them through a simplified merger simulation. David concluded that outcomes-based approaches are to be preferred to simulation approaches, where the data allows.
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