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Economy Briefs: 2 from U.S. win economics prize for match-making

- - Monday, October 15, 2012

STOCKHOLM — Two Americans were awarded the Nobel economics prize on Monday for studies on the match-making taking place when doctors are coupled up with hospitals, students with schools and human organs with transplant recipients.

The work of Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley has sparked a "flourishing field of research" and helped improve the performance of many markets, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

Mr. Roth, 60, is a professor at Harvard University in Boston. Mr. Shapley, 89, is a professor emeritus at the University of California at Los Angeles.

"This year's prize concerns a central economic problem: how to match different agents as well as possible," the academy said.

CELLPHONES

Softbank to buy 70% of Sprint for $20.1B

NEW YORK — Sprint, the country's third largest cellphone company, is selling a controlling stake to Japan's Softbank for $20.1 billion, the largest overseas acquisition by a Japanese firm.

The deal, announced Monday in Tokyo, positions Sprint Nextel Corp. as a stronger competitor to U.S. market leaders Verizon Wireless and AT&T, but it doesn't solve all of the company's underlying problems.

Sprint, which is based in Overland Park, Kan., has been limping along since 2005 when it bought Nextel. The merger quickly turned sour, saddling Sprint with the cost of running two incompatible networks while customers fled.

EDUCATION

College savings plans get top Morningstar honors

BOSTON — College savings plans offered through the states of Alaska, Maryland, Nevada and Utah earned top marks from Morningstar Inc. in the company's annual update to ratings of so-called 529 plans.

Another four plans received second-rung silver-medal ratings from Morningstar, which found that many of the state-sponsored plans reduced fees and improved investment options over the past 12 months.

The Chicago-based company is best known for its research on mutual funds, but it also rates 529s, named after the federal tax code that created them in 1997. States set their own guidelines for these investment accounts, which permit withdrawals for college expenses to be made free of federal taxes.

TECHNOLOGY

Kindle customers may get credit via settlements

NEW YORK — Amazon has alerted its Kindle customers that they are entitled to a credit on prior electronic book purchases as part of settlements between some major e-book publishers and the government.

In September, a federal judge approved the U.S. Justice Department's settlement with Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, which were accused of conspiring in a price-fixing scheme.

Amazon.com Inc. told its Kindle customers over the weekend that they will be contacted when the credit is applied to their account if the court approves the settlement in February. Customers don't need to do anything to receive the credit.

Credit for an as-yet undetermined amount will be given for every eligible Kindle book purchased between April 2010 and May 2012.

From wire dispatches and staff reports