• on Jan 17th, 2011 in Strategy & Public Policy, Uncategorized | 10 comments
    Coopetition, is a buzzword cropping up in many business publications these days. Basically, it means that competing firms look for ways to cooperate with each other, rather than compete head-to-head for business. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service, the United Parcel Service (UPS) now has a program that allows customers of participating retailers to return merchandise by dropping it in any U.S. Postal Service mailbox, or at any post office. The program features a special label that makes the service possible. After a return package is dropped off at a Postal Service location, a UPS driver picks it up and the UPS ground network transports it back to the retailer. UPS, which has its main air hub in Louisville, KY, began testing the service last year with a few retailers and is expanding it because of “positive response.” Some say this is an example of successful coopetition. There are a number of other current partnership programs with competitors. The Postal Service acts as a “last mile” partner for both UPS and FedEx, handling thousands of deliveries. Federal Express performs similar duties for the Postal Service providing air service for Postal Service parcels domestically as well as providing international logistics for the Postal Service’s Global Express Guaranteed service. In certain conditions, coopetition can be a “win-win-win”; helping not only the two businesses, but also the consumer. Do you think these partnerships benefit the public through greater efficiencies or hurt the competitive level? Let us know what you think! This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Oct 4th, 2010 in Strategy & Public Policy | 26 comments
    On September 30th, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) turned down the request by the Postal Service for an exigent price increase averaging 5.6 percent across all market-dominant products, such as First-Class Mail and Periodicals. Although current law cape increases in these products to the inflation rate, the PRC can consider rate increases beyond the cap if the Postal Service has been affected by “extraordinary or exceptional circumstances.” In this decision, the PRC agreed with the Postal Service’s contention that the economic recession was an exceptional circumstance, but it ruled that the Postal Service did not show how the exigent rate request was due to the recession. The ruling also tied cash flow problems the Postal Service currently faces to current laws that require prefunding of retiree health benefits. An OIG study found that the Postal Service has been overcharged $75 billion in its funding of pension liabilities, an amount that could be used to fund current and future retiree health benefits. In a statement addressing the PRC’s decision, Postmaster General Jack Potter expressed disappointment. However, he said that the PRC’s acknowledgement of the large financial risk caused by the prefunding payments for retiree health benefits was encouraging. The statement notes that the Postal Service is still reviewing the PRC’s decision and determining its course of action, but it lists areas for legislative relief to keep the Postal Service viable. October 1st was the start of the new fiscal year for the Postal Service. As the Postal Service enters 2011, what do you think its next step should be?
  • on Aug 16th, 2010 in Strategy & Public Policy | 8 comments
    There is no question that a country’s postal service is a valuable national asset. On one hand, it is a functional asset that supports commerce and binds the nation together. On the other, postal operations are capital assets, with distribution networks, vehicles, machinery, and labor resources that have some sort of value. While the value of binding the nation together is difficult to put into monetary terms, the value of capital assets is easier to assess. In fact, some cash-strapped governments around the world are trying to raise money by selling parts of their postal operations. The most prominent example is Greece, who announced in June that it plans to sell 39 percent of the national postal service, Hellenic Post. Greece’s troubled financial condition sent shockwaves through world markets in February. Greece plans to sell off part of Hellenic Post as a condition of the financial rescue package provided by other European Union (EU) members and the International Monetary Fund totaling €110 billion ($142 billion). The plan calls for Greece to raise at least €1 billion ($1.29 billion) per year for the next three years by selling off state-owned services including the national rail line and various utilities. Despite this partial privatization, the Greek government will still control 51 percent of Hellenic Post. Hellenic Postbank holds the remaining 10 percent. It will also remain the dominant company in the Greek postal market as EU regulators put off fully opening Greece to postal competition until 2013. This special regulation is because Hellenic Post must serve a large number of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, making its universal service obligation far more expensive than most other areas of Europe. This also makes the Greek situation unique. As the financial crisis that began in 2007 drags on into its third year, governments are trying to find ways to finance or pay off mounting deficits. One solution embraced by some, currently including Greece, UK, and Russia, is to leverage the value of national assets, particularly postal services. The question that remains is whether accepting money in the short term will harm the long-term value of national posts when it comes to promoting commerce and national unity. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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