Tag: economies of scale

President Obama has proposed a major reform of the US banking system. This follows on from the proposed levy to be imposed on banks’ assets announced a few days ago (see “We want our money back and we’re going to get it”).

There are two elements to the new proposals. The first is to limit the size of banks’ market share. Currently, banks’ deposits are not permitted to exceed 10% of total retail deposits in the USA. This 10% limit would be extended to cover wholesale deposits and other liabilities. The idea is to reduce concentration and increase competition. At present the largest four banks hold over half the total assets of banks in the USA.

The second element involves separating casino banking from retail banking. This would be achieved by barring retail banks from owning or investing in private equity or hedge funds or from engaging in ‘proprietary trading operations’. As the second BBC article below states:

Proprietary trading involves a firm making bets on financial markets with its own money, rather just than carrying out a trade for a client in which only the client’s money is at risk.

This comes close to restoring the Glass-Steagall Act, which was repealed in 1999. The Act, which was passed in 1933 in the wake of the 1929 Wall Street cash and the subsequent Great Depression, separated commercial banking and investment banking. It was designed to prevent customers’ deposits being exposed to the riskier activities of investment banking.

What have been the reactions to President Obama’s announcement? Are these reactions justified? Will the proposals prevent another banking crisis and credit crunch? The following articles explore these questions.

Obama hammers the banks Financial Times, Tom Braithwaite and Francesco Guerrera (22/1/10)
Obama pushes new bank regulation (including video) BBC News (21/1/10)
Q&A: Obama’s bank curbs BBC News, Martin Webber (21/1/10)
Obama announces dramatic crackdown on Wall Street banks (including video) Guardian, Jill Treanor (21/1/10)
Barack Obama bank reforms: Trying to fix a broker society Telegraph, Louise Armitstead and Helia Ebrahimi (23/1/10)
Glass-Steagall lite The Economist (22/1/10)
Obama’s Plan Finally Attacks “Too Big to Fail” The Huffington Post, Neil K. Shenai (21/1/10)
Obama Sizes Handcuffs For Banks Forbes, Liz Moyer (21/1/10)
Obama’s Showdown With Wall Street Forbes, Richard Murphy (22/1/10)
President Obama shows the way Independent (23/1/10)
Wall Street’s $26m lobbyists gear up to fight Obama banks reform The Observer, Andrew Clark (24/1/10)
Obama’s drawn first blood – now it’s the UK’s turn The Observer, Ruth Sunderland (24/1/10)
Gordon Brown to push for ‘Tobin tax’ after Wall Street crackdown Guardian, Larry Elliott and Jill Treanor (22/1/10)
Myners: UK does not need to copy Obama banking reforms Guardian, Andrew Clark, Jill Treanor, Paul Owen (22/1/10)
Debate on London’s banking system The Observer, Will Hutton and Boris Johnson (24/1/10)
What Obama’s bank reforms really mean BBC News blogs, Peston’s Picks, Robert Peston (22/1/10)
Davos 2010: Central bankers seethe behind closed doors BBC News, Tim Weber (29/1/10)

Questions

  1. What are the arguments for and against separating retail banking from the more risky elements of investment banking?
  2. Should banks be allowed to fail? Explain your answer and whether it is necessary to distinguish different types of banks.
  3. Would putting a limit on the market share of banks prevent them from achieving full economies of scale?
  4. Why did banking shares fall after President Obama’s announcement? Was this a ‘good sign’ or a ‘bad sign’?
  5. What is meant by the ‘broker-dealer’ function of banks? Explain each of the specific types of broker-dealer function.
  6. Compare recent UK measures to control banks with those in the USA.

Kraft was seeking to take over Cadbury since September 2009, (see Cadbury: Chocolate all change and A Krafty approach to Cadbury). But the Cadbury board had rejected previous bids as being too low. The September bid, for example, was valued at £10.2bn. On 19 January 2010, however, after heated negotiations the board accepted the latest offer by Kraft valued at £11.5bn ($19bn).

But is the deal good news? Or will what is sweet for senior management and the financial institutions which brokered the deal be dark bitter news for the main stakeholders – consumers, workers and shareholders? The following articles explore the issues.

Cadbury battle ends with midnight handshake Financial Times, Lina Saigol (19/1/10)
Cadbury takeover: a crafty bit of business or an overpriced confection? Telegraph, Jonathan Sibun (20/1/10)
Cadbury’s sweet City deal leaves a bitter taste in Bournville Guardian, Heather Stewart and Nick Mathiason (19/1/10)
Thousands of Cadbury jobs under threat as Kraft swallows a British icon (including video) Times Online, Helen Nugent and Catherine Boyle (20/1/10)
Cadbury deal ‘the price of globalisation’ Financial Times, Jenny Wiggins and Jonathan Guthrie (19/1/10)
Cadbury sale ‘right thing to do’ FT video (19/1/10)
Bitterness as Kraft wins Cadbury Independent, Nick Clark (20/1/10)
The winners: Management duo in line for bumper pay packet from takeover deal Independent, Nick Clark (20/1/10)
Kraft came hunting in the only country that would sell – Britain Independent, James Moore (20/1/10)
Kraft’s takeover leaves a bitter taste in the mouth Telegraph, Tracy Corrigan (19/1/10)
A sweet deal – or a takeover that is hard to swallow? Independent, Hamish McRae (20/1/10)
Cadbury: banks are the real winners BBC News blogs: Peston’s Picks, Robert Peston (20/1/10)
Warren Buffett blasts Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury Guardian, Graeme Wearden (20/1/10)
Cadbury says job cuts inevitable after Kraft takeover (including videos) BBC News (19/1/10)
Cadbury and the open market theory: they’d better be right Guardian blog, Michael White (20/1/10)
The Business: Bonus season and the Cadbury takeover Guardian podcast, Aditya Chakrabortty
How did Quakers conquer the British sweet shop? BBC News Magazine, Peter Jackson (20/1/10)
Why Kraft must keep organic cacao farmers sweet Guardian blog, Craig Sams (20/1/10)

Questions

  1. What were the incentives for the Cadbury board to accept the proposed offer by Kraft?
  2. Do such incentives lead to the efficient operation of markets?
  3. Explain what is meant by ‘competition for corporate control’. To what extent is such competition in the interests of consumers?
  4. What economies or diseconomies of scale are likely to result from the takeover? What will determine the extent to which changes in costs are passed on to the consumer?
  5. How will the following stakeholders fare from the takeover, both in the short run and in the long run: (a) consumers; (b) workers; (c) shareholders?
  6. Examine Warren Buffet’s arguments for rejecting the deal.

As the Times Online article below states, “Barely a year ago, The Co-operative Group was selling itself as an antidote to big business, an ethical alternative to the ruthlessness of mammon, but now it has decided to take on the Big Four supermarkets at their own game.”

So just what is the business strategy of the Co-op? Is ethical business consistent with profit maximisation? Does the takeover of Somerfield make the new Co-op a very different type of supermarket from that of a few months ago? The following articles look at the Co-op’s business strategy.

Co-op hits back with its own triple whammy Times Online, Marcus Leroux (30/11/09)
Christmas battle has started but the real test will be 2010 Telegraph, James Hall (5/12/09)
Co-op supermarket chain enjoys Somerfield boost BBC News, Will Smale (11/12/09)

See also the Co-operative group site:
The Co-operative

Questions

  1. What do you understand by ‘ethical business’? Would you describe the Co-op as an ethical business?
  2. What type of merger is the one between the Co-op and Somerfield?
  3. What economies of scale are likely be realised by Co-op’s takeover of Somerfield?
  4. What type of growth strategy is the Co-operative group pursuing?
  5. Is being ethical likely to slow or accelerate the expansion of the Co-op?

There are seven Indian airlines: state-owned Air India and six private carriers. Since the onset of recession they have all been making losses and were considering a one-day ‘strike’ when services would be removed. The aim was to force the Indian government to reduce fuel and airport taxes.

Do the losses suggest that there is overcapacity in the Indian airline market? Does it matter if, during the current recession, some airlines go out of business? Are bankruptcies necessary if the surviving carriers are to be stimulated to make cost savings and are to achieve sufficient economies of scale? Or should governments offer support to struggling airlines? Is oligopoly the best market structure for such an industry and, if so, how can collusion be avoided? The following articles consider these questions.

How many airlines do we need? Business Line (The Hindu) (4/8/09)
Indian airlines call off Aug 18 strike Forbes (3/8/09)
When corporations capture the state Rediff Business (7/8/09) (see middle part of article)
Blaming everyone else Indian Express (3/8/09)
India’s air carriers spin loss riddle Asia Times Online (8/8/09)
A strategic vision for Indian aviation The Economic Times (8/8/09)
Flight to value The Economist (6/8/09)
Federation of Indian Airlines

Questions

  1. Describe the features of the market structure in which Indian airlines operate.
  2. Is the Federation of Indian Airlines a cartel?
  3. Should (a) any; (b) all Indian airlines be given government support, and, if so, what form should the support take? Should Air India be treated differently from the other Indian airlines? Explain your answer.
  4. Is it in Air India’s long-term interests to embark on a price war with the other Indian airlines?
  5. Is oligopoly necessarily the optimal market structure for a capital-intensive industry?

“As the global economic crisis forces everyone to downsize, the self-sufficient worker once again has a chance, whether as a farmer growing vegetables for local consumption or as an open-source software developer who makes a living in his basement office.” So argues the first article linked to below. Does this mean that economies of scale are over-exaggerated? Should developing countries provide more support to small-scale production as a growth and development strategy? And does small-scale production provide benefits beyond those of production and profit? Does it meet broader human and social needs? The articles explore the issues: the first two in the context of the developed world and the other four in the context of developing countries.

The Return to Yeomanry New America Foundation (22/6/09)
Entrée: Small-scale farmers on the forefront of a greens revolution The Vancouver Sun (19/6/09)
Extracts – the future of small-scale farming Oxfam International
Malawi’s fertile plan Mail & Guardian Online (25/6/09)
Development: Investment in small farmers crucial in Africa Bizcommunity.com (24/6/09)
Toward Agricultural Sustainability Philippines Business Mirror (24/6/09)

Questions

  1. What are the benefits of ‘a return to yeomanry’ (a) to the individuals themselves; (b) to society and the environment?
  2. Why might it prove a risky strategy for those embarking on small-scale production? How could governments help to reduce the risks for the producers? Should they?
  3. Discuss whether fostering small-scale farming is an appropriate development strategy for developing countries. What specific policy measures should governments adopt?
  4. Is land reform (a) a necessary condition; (b) a sufficient condition if small-scale farming is to flourish in developing countries? What pitfalls are there from a policy of land reform?