Archive for the ‘Market Structures’ Category

Low Cost Airline’s interesting measures to increase efficiency 

January 26, 2016 Leave a comment

What a difference a year makes for Indian low cost airline Spicejet. On the verge of shutting down in December 2014 with $300m of debt with suppliers refusing to refuel planes unless paid upfront and staff not been paid their monthly salaries, the airline has made a remarkable recovery. Today it is filling 93% of available seats and has made a profit in the last 4 quarters.

What has been the cause of the turnaround?

  • Aircraft fuel expenses dropped nearly 35 percent
  • Demand has increased – compared to the previous year Indian airlines carried 20% more passengers in 2015.
  • Negotiated better terms with aircraft-leasing firms
  • Cut jobs and managers pay
  • Scrapped unprofitable routes

SpicejetMeasures to reduce inefficiencies of Spicejet

  • Reducing the time to second-tier cities and thereby making it possible to fit in an extra flight a day.
  • Steel brakes on wheels of Boeing 737 were replaced with lighter carbon brakes
  • In-flight magazines reduced – less weight
  • Meals served in cardboard boxes instead of plastic trays – reducing fuel consumption
  • Planes were filled with just enough fuel within safety margin
  • Landing gear was deployed 8km from touchdown instead of 14km – reduce drag
  • Taxi on the runway using just one engine – more fuel efficient
  • Stocks of spares parts are now more readily available so planes spend less time on the ground

Although the airline still has a long way to go to reduce its debt its recent performance has enabled it to think about long-term expansion.


Maple syrup cartel under pressure

December 18, 2015 Leave a comment

FPAQThere is the oil cartel, OPEC, but little is written about FPAQ which is The Federation of Quebec Syrup Producers. The FPAQ was created in 1966 under the Professional Syndicates Act. Affiliated with Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), it’s mission is to defend the economic, social, and moral interests of Quebec’s 13,500 maple syrup producers who operate 7,300 maple syrup businesses in 12 regional maple syrup producers’ unions. Each producer is subject to a quota and any excess syrup is put into FPAQ’s stockpile, and producers only get paid for it when it is sold which can be years later. Between 2010 and 2014 Quebec accounted for 72% of world production – see graph.

The FPAQ’s intention is to keep prices high and stable by limiting supply of syrup on the market. However there are concerns about FPAQ’s long-term viability:

  • As with the oil industry the higher price has encouraged other suppliers to entry the market.
  • Across the border the US has increased its maple harvest from 7.2m litres in 2012 to 12m liters in 2014. This may mean cuts in members’ quotas and stockpiling more syrup to maintain a higher price.
  • With maple syrup becoming increasingly expensive substitutes are being sought in the from of toppings made from corn syrup.
  • Supply is outpacing demand and FPAQ’s strategic reserve has increased to 25m litres which is equivalent to one year’s sales.

Saudi Arabia has been able to drive high-cost oil producers out of business by allowing the price of oil to fall. However the FPAQ don’t really have this option as the operating costs for maple syrup plantations are very low and US producers are unlikely to cease production like the high-cost oil producers.

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Chinese challenge Boeing and Airbus Duopoly but for what reason?

December 16, 2015 Leave a comment

C919 - COMACThe commercial aircraft market has been dominated by Boeing (USA) and Airbus (EU) and according to Airbus’ Global Market Forecast 2015, in the next 20 years, passenger air traffic will grow annually at 4.6 percent driving a need for around 32,600 new passenger and freighter aircrafts. This duopoly has existed since Airbus introduced its long-range A330/A340 in the 1990’s when it challenged Boeing’s monopoly position. However, the Chinese are now challenging the duopoly’s market share by introducing its alternative to the Boeing and Airbus options. COMAC, a Chinese state-owned planemaker, has revealed its C919 plane as a competitor to the Airbus 320 and Boeing’s 737 although the C919 will not be ready for service until 2019.

Eventhough COMAC is state backed there are still significant barriers to entry for the commercial airline manufacturer.

  • It is anticipated that the C919 fuel efficiency will not be a the levels of the newer versions of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.
  • The Chinese have little experience in creating complex production systems and supply chains. Boeing research and development costs for the new Dreamliner, grew to $28 billion as a result of problems with its supply chain.
  • They will need to improve their safety records in order to encourage sales. COMAC’s regional jet, the ARJ21, had its first test flight in 2008, but has yet to be certified because of poor wiring and cracks on the wings.

Are the Chinese actually trying to break the duopoly?

COMAC’s goal of breaking up the Boeing/Airbus narrow-body aircraft duopoly is a challenging ordeal but is this the motivation behind the C919? With China’s secret-capitalist economy, the central government likes to use American or European aircraft orders as a way of correcting a trade imbalance. Although they would still be importing the avionics and engines from around the world, the overall value of those components are insignificant when compared with a complete aircraft. China does need planes now and with the growing income levels of the economy there will be huge demand for air travel. But what is ironic is that Airbus already have a factory in Tianjin making the A320 aircraft although COMAC are realistic that new aircraft take significant time to put into service and therefore still require Airbus planes.

National Pride

China has established itself as a economic powerhouse but they also want to be seen as having the innovative ideas and technological knowledge to challenge the established market. By producing a state-of-the-art aircraft they can announce their arrival on the world stage of innovation. The C919 is a pathway to achieving this.

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Consumer interface removing the supply chain

October 26, 2015 Leave a comment

HT to past student Shelalé Mazari for the image below. Tom Goodwin wrote a very interesting article on the battle for the consumer interface.

Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.

He states that since the Industrial Revolution there are complex supply chains including manufacturers – importers – wholesalers – franchises – retailers. However the rapid rise in technology has allowed a number of these parts of the chain to be removed.

Uber, Facebook, Alibaba and Airnb are companies with, what Goodwin refers to as, thin layers that sit on top of vast supply systems (where the costs are) and interface with a huge number of people (where the money is). The New York Times needs to write, fact check, buy paper, print and distribute newspapers to get their ad money.
Uber etc

A2 Revision – Price Discrimination

October 9, 2015 Leave a comment

Here is a great video from Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution fame in which he explains Price discrimination – Unit 2 in the CIE Economic syllabus. Price discrimination is common: movie theaters charge seniors less money than they charge young adults. Computer software companies sell to businesses and students at different rates, often offering discounts to students. These price differences reflect variations in the elasticity of demand for these different groups. When demand curves are different, it is more profitable to set different prices in different markets. We’ll also cover arbitrage and take a look at some examples of price discrimination in the airline industry

A2 Revision – Oligopoly and the kinked demand curve – download

October 2, 2015 Leave a comment

I alluded to in a previous post that one model of oligopoly revolves around how a firm perceives its demand curve. The model relates to an oligopoly in which firms try to anticipate the reactions of rivals to their actions. As the firm cannot readily observe its demand curve with any degree of certainty, it has got to estimate how consumers will react to price changes.

In the graph below the price is set at P1 and it is selling Q1. The firm has to decide whether to alter the price. It knows that the degree of its price change will depend upon whether or not the other firms in the market will follow its lead. The graph shows the the two extremes for the demand curve which the firm perceives that it faces. Suppose that an oligopolist, for whatever reason, produces at output Q1 and price P1, determined by point X on the graph. The firm perceives that demand will be relatively elastic in response to an increase in price, because they expects its rivals to react to the price rise by keeping their prices stable, thereby gaining customers at the firm’s expense. Conversely, the oligopolist expects rivals to react to a decrease in price by cutting their prices by an equivalent amount; the firm therefore expects demand to be relatively inelastic in response to a price fall, since it cannot hope to lure many customers away from their rivals. In other words, the oligopolist’s initial position is at the junction of the two demand curves of different relative elasticity, each reflecting a different assumption about how the rivals are expected to react to a change in price. If the firm’s expectations are correct, sales revenue will be lost whether the price is raised or cut. The best policy may be to leave the price unchanged.

With this price rigidity a discontinuity exists along a vertical line above output Q1 between the two marginal revenue curves associated with the relatively elastic and inelastic demand curves. Costs can rise or fall within a certain range without causing a profit-maximising oligopolist to change either the price or output. At output Q1 and price P1 MC=MR as long as the MC curve is between an upper limit of MC2 and a lower limit of MC1.

Criticisms of the kinked demand curve theory.
Although it is a plausible explanation of price rigidity it doesn’t explain how and why an oligopolist chooses to be a point X in the first place. Research casts doubt on whether oligopolists respond to price changes in the manner assumed. Oligopolistic markets often display evidence of price leadership, which provides an alternative explanation of orderly price behaviour. Firms come the conclusion that price-cutting is self-defeating and decide that it may be advantageous to follow the firm which takes the first steps in raising the price. If all firms follow, the price rise will be sustained to the benefit of all firms.

If you want to gradually build the kinked demand curve model download the powerpoint by clicking below.

A2 Economics – Teaching MC=MR with M&M’s

August 4, 2015 Leave a comment

Having just completed Perfect Competition with my A2 class I used a couple of packets of M&M’s to drum home the concept of marginal analysis MC=MR. It has always been something that students have struggled with but I am hoping this experience of creating graphs with M&M’s might help their understanding and when to use the concept.

Profit is maximised at the rate of output where the positive difference between total revenues and total costs is the greatest. Using marginal analysis, the perfectly competitive firm will produce at a rate of output where marginal revenue equals marginal cost. Marginal revenue, however, is equal to price. Therefore, the perfectly competitive firm produces at an output rate where marginal cost equals the price of output. Remember that the firm will make profits as long as the extra revenue brought in from selling the last unit of output(MR) is greater than the extra cost which is incurred in producing it(MC). Below are some of the graphs they created – subnormal profit and normal profit




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