Shareholders at European food retailers Ahold and Delhaize have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the proposed €9.8bn (£7.6bn) merger of the two groups.

At the extraordinary general meetings in Holland, 99.9% of Ahold shareholders voted in favour of the deal, while 96.2% approved of the merger at the Delhaize meeting in Belgium.

The results removed one of the last remaining obstacles to the merger but regulators in the US, where both businesses have a large presence, and Belgium still need to give the green light before final completion, which is expected mid-2016.

Ahold chairman Jan Hommen said: “This is a critical milestone in the completion of our proposed merger, which will create an even stronger international food retailer for all stakeholders.”

Delhaize chairman Mats Jansson added: “Today’s vote underscores their clear appreciation of the strategic rationale for the combination of our two companies, which will create a stronger and more innovative food retail company, with enhanced scale and increased relevance in local communities.”

The two retailers revealed their intentions to create a combined group of more than 6,500 stores in June 2015.

Earlier this month, Ahold and Delhaize both posted improved fourth quarter revenues compared with a year ago.

Ahold increased Q4 sales by 21.4% to €9.8bn, while Delhaize reported fourth quarter group revenue growth of 14.2% to €6.3bn. The two companies had combined sales of £62.6bn in 2015.

Shares in Ahold (AH) rose 0.3% to €20.30 today and by 0.7% to €94.49 at Delhaize (DELB).