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The Great Universal Stores plc (GUS) - the outfit behind catalogue retailer Argos - has bought the assets and technology of failed ISP Breathe.com for £1.4 million.

In the short term, Breathe will continue to operate as an ISP under the Breathe name.

The 80-odd people who still work for Breathe (60 people were made redundant last week) also have a future at the company - for now at least.

So, what was it that attracted GUS to this painfully trendy but ultimately flawed ISP? Was it that they all wear combat trousers and ride microscooters? Or is it 'cos they had a streetwise, urban attitude to life?

Neither, it seems, despite Breathe spending megabucks trying to promote its metropolitan appearance. Instead, GUS wants to get its hands on Breathe's technology. The retailer seems to think that Breathe's "expertise" in multi-device Net access will help it sell more goods.

While it's good news for GUS, it appears even less likely that the 50,000 or so people who paid £50 for a lifetime's free access will get a bean. In a statement GUS said it would "not assume any of the business' previous liabilities" - which are reportedly around £50 million.

It also revealed that in the nine months to 30 September 2000, Breathe.com generated sales of £1.4 million, predominantly from advertising revenue and commissions. GUS expects Breathe.com to incur losses of between £4 million and £7 million in its next financial year.

Breathe called in the administrators last month after ramping up massive debts.

In September, GUS bought computer etailer, Jungle.com, for £37 million. ®

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