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Cartel Behavior Analysis According to Game Theory Essay

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Updated: Dec 11th, 2021

The world of business is a complex environment that lives and develops according to its own rules and laws. The relations of tax payments, productions processes, and competition determine the success of every single company in the business environment. To maximize one’s chances for success, and to retrieve as much profit as possible, players of the business world developed the strategy of creating cartels, i. e. horizontal unions of companies operating in the same sphere of industry. The essence of the cartel behavior thus lies in the agreed cutting of output to create the market deficit and increasing prices. The game theory is the approach explaining the cartel behavior.

The case of the shipping companies presented for the analysis in this paper has a direct relation to the notions of the game theory and the cartel behavior. As it is universally known, companies form cartels so that to reduce the inter-firm and outside competition and make the highest profit they can. The case under analysis describes the situation when two shipping companies Stolt-Nielsen SA and Odfjell ASA, i. e. players of the same market, decided to unite their effort in transporting chemicals by sea. Both companies agreed to bid for shipping business and cooperate in bidding operations by providing each other with bidding prices and publishing their income level changes before and after the union. Obviously, such a behavior can be labeled cartel behavior as shipping prices would inevitably grow if these two companies control them in a particular region.

At the same time, one might argue that cartel behavior is not applicable to this particular case as neither of the shipping companies deals with the production of goods. Consequently, they cannot reduce output and exercise cartel behavior. However, this argument can be opposed by stating that shipping services are also products to some extent, and if both companies discussed limiting the access of their clients to their services, the prices for the latter will inevitably grow, thus illustrating the cartel behavior by Stolt-Nielsen SA and Odfjell ASA.

Further on, the game theory, on which the analysis of the cartel behavior is based, presupposes that persons or organizations, or even the whole countries, unite to maximize profit and minimize competition. The brightest example of the large multinational cartel is OPEC, the union of countries that produce oil and can regulate its prices. Although to a much smaller extent, Stolt-Nielsen SA and Odfjell ASA can also form a cartel and be analyzed through the prism of the game theory, because their joint activities can change the prices in the market of sea shipment of liquid chemicals. The fact that, according to the case, price wars are possible if any of the companies leaves the cartel, is another evidence of the point that Stolt-Nielsen SA and Odfjell ASA are involved in the cartel behavior.

Thus, the case under analysis is a bright example of cartel behavior in the modern business world. The game theory helps in an in-depth discussion of the practices and limitations of the lawful activities that both Stolt-Nielsen SA and Odfjell ASA can exercise during their attempts to get hold of the liquid chemicals shipping industry. Finally, potential profit for the cartel and the price wars possible if the cartel is ruined, are also strong evidence of cartel behavior observed in the analyzed case.

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