Will tech giants take over payments?

The Chinese payments industry has recently experienced significant disruptions from technology companies Alipay and WeChat. Although consumer preferences and the regulatory environment have played an important part in the success of Alipay and WeChat Pay in China, many factors are also applicable in the European context. With technology companies now evaluating opportunities in the European payments market (most recently, Facebook’s Libra), what can the Chinese example tell us about its likely evolution?

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Lifting the weight of state aid from project finance

In the EU, support provided by the state to finance projects operating in competitive markets typically needs to comply with state aid rules. However, there may be challenges in structuring project financing from the state in a way that is compliant with these rules. What are the fundamental elements to consider when assessing whether the funding confers an economic advantage on the recipient? What alternative financing structures could be considered?

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A flood of interest: Flood Re makes its mark

Flood Re, a pioneering flood insurance levy scheme in the UK, is celebrating its third birthday. Since its launch in April 2016, the scheme has helped over 200,000 households, and is now increasingly looking at how it can help the market to transition to ensure that Flood Re is no longer needed by 2039. Aidan Kerr, Director of Operations at Flood Re, explains the scheme’s history and underlying social purpose

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Common ownership and market entry

Investors’ holdings in multiple firms give rise to what is known as ‘common ownership’. Are the strategic decisions of competing firms affected by the presence of common ownership? Albert Banal-Estañol of Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona GSE and City University of London, and Melissa Newham and Jo Seldeslachts of DIW Berlin and KU Leuven, provide evidence on the impact that common ownership has on market entry, one of the most important strategic decisions that firms make, in US pharmaceutical markets

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Gas markets, regulation and politics: implications of the energy transition

Until recently, gas was seen in Europe as a complement to renewable energy—i.e. a cleaner (albeit costlier) alternative to coal. Since 2017, opinions have been changing, primarily as a result of stronger evidence on the pace of climate change. Nonetheless, as Sir Philip Lowe, Oxera Senior Adviser, explains, gas will continue to have an important role—albeit this is contingent on future innovation and the roll-out of gas investment, both of which in turn depend on politics and market regulation

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Fairness and competition in online markets: friends or foes?

Fairness is emerging as an increasingly important policy goal across sectors. We set out a framework for assessing fairness concerns, and examine the relationship between the aims of competition policy and fairness in current debates. Do the European Commission’s platform-to-business initiative and reputation systems for sharing platforms lead to fairer processes? And do online price differentiation and negotiations between platforms and content creators lead to fair outcomes? What is the role of competition in all of this?

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Fair ground: a practical framework for assessing fairness

Regulators are increasingly looking to firms to ensure that their practices are ‘fair’ in terms of the process followed (e.g. the type of data used) and the outcomes delivered (e.g. which consumers pay more). So, how can boards and senior managers satisfy themselves that practices are indeed fair and in line with their firm’s principles and risk appetite? We present Oxera’s practical framework, which has been used as a tool by senior decision-makers in financial services firms

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Stock-ing up: the design of equity trading markets in Europe

Equity markets, where investors buy and sell shares, are crucial to the European economy. Regulatory change has opened up competition, leading to more choice and lower trading fees, but also fragmentation and risks to price formation. There is an ongoing debate about the provision of market data services that often overlooks the links between market data services, trading and price formation. How is equity trading functioning from a market design and an end-investor perspective?

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A challenging initial assessment for the water companies in England and Wales

On 31 January, Ofwat published its Initial Assessment of Plans as part of the current water sector price control review in England & Wales. Ofwat categorised three companies’ business plans as ‘fast track’, meaning their proposals over 2020–25 are ready to implement. Four companies’ plans were categorised as needing significant scrutiny and substantial rework, and the remaining companies’ plans were categorised as ‘slow track’, needing to undertake further work on their plans. What are the cost-efficiency and finance aspects of this initial assessment?

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