Friday, October 30, 2009

Near Monopoly

Companies with dominant global share are usually capable of generating supernormal profits. Sadly, in Singapore, such companies are hard to come by and hence this important factor is rarely looked at and discussed.

As Economics 101 would tell us, monopoly or near monopoly creates many conditions that is ideal for the market leader. These includes

1. Huge economies of scale – hence able to produce at a lower cost than most competitors

2. Bargaining power with clients and suppliers – to the extent of pricing out other competitors or ousting them in other ways

3. Advantage in capital outlay – a market leader does not need to spend as much as a competitor when increasing capacity bcos it can always leverage a lot on its existing structure (including distribution, sales and marketing etc)

4. As a result of stifling competition, the market leader now has pricing power. Basically it can price its product or services at any rate and customers will need to accept as there is no alternative

5. Reduction in cost of operations, and hence leading to a reduction in quality. The market leader now can reduce its cost of operations – including perhaps reducing the amount of input material cost or cutting sales force. This leads to reduction in quality of product or service

I guess the whole Singapore society is an apt reflection of monopoly works. Prices are ever rising yet quality of product or service keeps dropping. As consumers, Singaporeans keep suffering. Hence it is important for us to become shareholders as well, and so more or less offset the shit thrown at us as consumers.

*Sigh*, that's life in Singapore. Tomorrow will be better. Or so we hope.

Anyways, as an example to illustrate Pt 1, 2 and 3, we have HP laser printers. HP has a dominant share in the global laser printer market. Around 60% market share. As a result of this, they have huge economies of scale. They can produce laser printers and more importantly, the ink cartridges, at a much lower cost than all other competitors. However there is no need to sell the cartridges at a lower price than competition bcos they enjoy a good brand name. But if they wanted to, they could easier crush all other competitors by selling their cartridges at a much lower price.

Since they are the No.1 leader, they can always demand the best shelf space in electronic stores, or lower distributor margins, or bargain for lower prices with their parts supplier (those who supply the various small components inside the printer).

Of course, they can build new production lines and bring in new capacity at a much lower cost than all others. So how can anyone compete at all? Despite this, the never-give-up Korean superpower Samsung is fighting hard to break HP’s monopoly. We shall see if they have the same success with LCD TVs.

Next post, we look at a Singapore company on Point 4 and 5.

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