Using priced options to solve the exposure problem in sequential auctions

Valentin Robu*, Lonneke Mous, Han La Poutré

*Corresponding author for this work

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We propose a priced options model for solving the exposure problem of bidders with valuation synergies participating in a sequence of online auctions. We consider a setting in which complementary-valued items are offered sequentially by different sellers, who have the choice of either selling their item directly or through a priced option. In our model, the seller fixes the exercise price for this option, and then sells it through a first-price auction. We analyze this model from a decision-theoretic perspective and we show, for a setting where the competition is formed by local bidders (which desire a single item), that using options can increase the expected profit for both sides. Furthermore, we derive the equations that provide minimum and maximum bounds between which the bids of the synergy buyer are expected to fall, in order for both sides of the market to have an incentive to use the options mechanism. Next, we perform an experimental analysis of a market in which multiple synergy buyers are active simultaneously. We show that, despite the extra competition, some synergy buyers may benefit, because sellers are forced to set their exercise prices for options at levels which encourage participation of all buyers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Number of pages39
JournalACM Transactions on Internet Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • Algorithms
  • Economics
  • Theory
  • Experimentation
  • Auction theory
  • priced options


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