Professor of Entrepreneurship
Multimarket Contact; Mutual Forbearance; Imperfect Observability;
Research on pricing, profits, and firm survival has shown that multimarket contact causes mutual forbearance against competition, but has not considered the consequences of imperfect observability of competitive moves.Here, predictions are developed to explain how mutual forbearance occurs but sometimes fails in markets with imperfect observability. Mutual forbearance means that firms do not seek to take market share from one another through price cuts or nonprice competition, and thus that sales grow at uniform rates.Firms defect from mutual forbearance, and hence have higher sales growth, if the potential rewards are high and the likelihood of being discovered is low. This theory is tested on a panel of firms operating in the Norwegian general insurance industry.The evidence suggests that sales growth is most rapid in firms that do not meet many multimarket competitors in a given market and firms that are economically troubled. Growing or highly concentrated markets have higher heterogeneity of growth rates.