Incentive Regulation of Prices When Costs are Sunk

30 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2003

See all articles by Lewis T. Evans

Lewis T. Evans

Victoria University of Wellington - New Zealand Institute for Study of Competition and Regulation Inc. (ISCR)

Graeme Guthrie

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Economics & Finance

Date Written: January 9, 2005

Abstract

We present a model featuring irreversible investment, economies of scale, uncertain future demand and capital prices, and a regulator who sets the firm's output price according to the cost structure of a hypothetical replacement firm. We show that a replacement firm has a fundamental cost advantage over the regulated firm: it can better exploit the economies of scale because it has not had to confront the historical uncertainties faced by the regulated firm. We show that setting prices so low that a replacement firm is just willing to participate is insufficient to allow the regulated firm to expect to break even whenever it has to invest. Thus, unless the regulator is willing to incur costly monitoring to ensure the firm invests, revenue must be allowed in excess of that required for a replacement firm to participate. This contrasts with much of the existing literature which argues that the market value of a regulated firm should equal the cost of replacing its existing assets. We also obtain a closed-form solution for the regulated firm's output price when this price is set at discrete intervals. In contrast to rate of return regulation, we find that resetting the regulated price more frequently can increase the risk faced by the firm's owners, and that this is reflected in a higher output price and a higher weighted-average cost of capital.

Keywords: Incentive regulation, uncertainty, sunk costs, economies of scale

JEL Classification: G31, L5

Suggested Citation

Evans, Lewis T. and Guthrie, Graeme, Incentive Regulation of Prices When Costs are Sunk (January 9, 2005). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=467660 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.467660

Lewis T. Evans

Victoria University of Wellington - New Zealand Institute for Study of Competition and Regulation Inc. (ISCR) ( email )

Wellington 6001
New Zealand
64 4 4635562 (Phone)
64 4 4635566 (Fax)

Graeme Guthrie (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Economics & Finance ( email )

P.O. Box 600
Wellington 6140
New Zealand
64 4 463 5763 (Phone)

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