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Safeway, Morrisons Shareholders OK Merger

LONDON - Shareholders have overwhelmingly approved the 3 billion pound ($5.5 billion) takeover of Safeway PLC, Britain's fourth-largest grocery chain, by William Morrisons Supermarkets PLC, according to an Associated Press report.

Shareholders of both companies voted Wednesday in favor of the merger. The only remaining steps are two High Court hearings to sanction it, which are expected to take place in two to three weeks.

Safeway, which is unrelated to the U.S. company of the same name, accepted the buyout offer in December, ending a takeover battle that lasted nearly a year. Rivals Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's had been blocked from bidding for the group on grounds it could reduce competition.

The combination of Safeway and Morrisons, Britain's fifth-largest food retailer, would still rank fourth among Britain's biggest grocers with about 552 stores.
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