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Shareholders for both William Morrison Supermarkets and Safeway Plc in the UK have overwhelmingly approved the proposed acquisition of the fourth-ranked supermarket chain by fifth-ranked Morrison for the equivalent of about $5.6 billion (US).

The acquisition now is expected to be final on March 8, contingent on the divestiture of 52 Safeway units.

This brings almost to a close a takeover frenzy that began last year when Morrison made a bid for Safeway, inciting competitive moves to acquire Safeway by other UK chains, including Tesco, Wal-Mart's Asda Group, and Sainsbury. In the end, however, UK competition authorities judged that an acquisition of Safeway by any of those companies would have reduced competition, and they only allowed Morrison to move forward.

Kenneth Morrison, executive chairman of Morrison, called the acquisition "a transforming step." He said, "We have very clear and detailed plans for Safeway and I am confident that we will be able to integrate the two businesses swiftly and effectively."
KC's View:
For a long time, we wondered if we'd be dead before this story played out to its conclusion. Luckily, it didn't work out that way…

We've always believed that a Morrison acquisition of Safeway made the most sense for the UK's competitive balance. We're glad it has worked out this way.