Delhaize and Ahold have been given the green light by competition watch dogs in Belgium for the proposed merger of the two European food retailers.

Clearance from the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) was one of the last remaining hurdles to the €9.8bn (£7.6bn) deal following overwhelming support from the shareholders of both companies earlier this week.

The two retailers just need to receive the go ahead from regulators in the US, where both have a large presence, to conclude the deal, which was agreed in June 2015.

Delhaize and Ahold must sell 13 stores across their portfolios in Belgium as a condition of clearance from the BCA, but none will be closed as part of the competition remedies. A limited number of future Ahold and Delhaize projects will also need to be sold.

The businesses said the clearance represented “an important milestone in the process to completion”.

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, with more than 6,500 stores and about 375,000 staff serving more than 50 million customers every week in Europe and the US.

Shares in Ahold (AH) rose 2.2% to €20.60 today and by 2.4%% to €95.93 at Delhaize (DELB).

The merger is expected to be completed in mid-2016.