Case | HBS Case Collection | March 2002 (Revised January 2010)

BP and the Consolidation of the Oil Industry, 1998-2002

by Forest L. Reinhardt, Ramon Casadesus-Masanell and David J Hanson


Examines the economics of the oil and gas industry with a focus on 1998 through 2001. Discusses the rationale behind using a growth in scale as a means to increase profitability and to gain competitive advantage. Also examines the classic strategic implications of vertical integration and questions the necessity of remaining vertically integrated in today's markets. During 1998-2001, the industry structure changed dramatically with the occurrence of a wave of merger activity. Set at the end of 2001, as BP's chief executive, Lord John Browne, ponders the company's future. BP set off the merger activity in 1998 with its combination with Amoco. Other major oil concerns quickly followed suit. Several large and dominant firms, termed "supermajors," separated themselves from the rest of the competitors. Although a large number of independent specialty firms also exist, the supermajor firms no longer believe them to be direct competitors. After the case discussion, students should be able to: 1) understand the basic economics of the oil and gas industry, 2) analyze the rationale behind vertical integration strategies, 3) analyze why the industry restructuring occurred, and 4) understand the economies of scale of the supermajor firms as well as the potential problems their immense size could create.

Keywords: Non-Renewable Energy; Growth and Development Strategy; Industry Structures; Competitive Advantage; Consolidation; Horizontal Integration; Vertical Integration; Energy Industry;


Reinhardt, Forest L., Ramon Casadesus-Masanell, and David J Hanson. "BP and the Consolidation of the Oil Industry, 1998-2002." Harvard Business School Case 702-012, March 2002. (Revised January 2010.)