Antitrust versus industrial policies, entry and welfare

With Guy Meunier and Francisco Ruiz Aliseda, May 2015.
Revise and Resubmit to Journal of Industrial Economics

In industries with large sunk costs, the investment strategy of competing firms depends on the regulatory context. We consider ex-ante industrial policies in which the sunk cost may be either taxed or subsidized, and antitrust policies which could be either pro-competitive (leading to divestiture in case of high ex-post profitability) or lenient (allowing mergers in case of low ex-post profitability). Through a simple entry game we completely characterize the impact of these policies and examine their associated dynamic trade-offs between the timing of the investment, the ex-post benefits for the consumers, and the possible duplication of fixed costs. We find that merger policies are dominated by ex-ante industrial policies, whereas the latter are dominated by divestiture policies only under very special circumstances.