• deregulation;
  • governance structures;
  • efficiency;
  • electric utilities;
  • vertical integration;
  • market transactions;
  • transaction costs;
  • uncertainty;
  • Data Envelopment Analysis


The business strategy literature offers apparently opposite views of the ability of vertical integration to cope with the uncertainty related to changing regulatory environments. In this paper, we analyze how the process of retail deregulation affects the comparative efficiency of governance structures, which range on a continuum from fully vertically integrated structures to market transactions. Based on the analysis of 177 U.S. electric utilities from 1998 to 2001, our results show that the process of retail deregulation has a negative impact on firms' productive efficiency, as measured using Data Envelopment Analysis. Furthermore, firms that are vertically integrated into electricity generation, or that rely on the market for the supply of their electricity, are more efficient than firms that adopt hybrid structures combining vertical integration and contracting. This research has important implications because it shows the coexistence of different types of governance structures that cope efficiently with regulatory uncertainty through different mechanisms. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.