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The Grim Reaper and ET turned out in an eleventh hour bid to stop BT from spinning off its mobile phone business.

BT employees joined the pair outside the NEC in Birmingham to lobby shareholders attending the emergency general meeting (EGM), which many commentators believe will give the monster telco the green light to divest its mobile outfit.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) hoped the protest will save BT from inflicting "'insane' damage on itself by breaking itself up".

However, reports suggest that only a handful of protestors pitched up.

It was a bit of a "damp squib", said one onlooker.

Despite the poor turnout, the union believes the split would effectively spell the end of BT as an integrated telecoms provider.

"This is like no other dispute in the history of the trade union movement," said CWU deputy general secretary Jeannie Drake.

"It has nothing to do with pay or conditions - simply a genuine desire to stop the company inflicting terrible long term harm on itself where there is no commercial justification.

"Crazy though it sounds the [we] are having to turn to the City to try to save BT's bosses from themselves," she said.

Around 400 shareholders are understood to have pitched up at today's meeting.

Addressing the EGM this morning chief exec Sir Peter Bonfield urged shareholders to vote in favour of the proposed demerger.

He said: "This proposed demerger will create two new separate and independent companies - mmO2 and BT Group.

"Each will have its own identity, board, management and stock exchange listing. It is a further important step in the transformation of BT.

"The proposed demerger has the potential to bring significant benefits for shareholders.

"It is a fundamental part of our strategy, which received widespread shareholder support at the time of the rights issue. Your board unanimously recommends that you vote in favour of it," he said.

The result of the EGM is expected some time tomorrow. ®

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