The Hague (AFP) - Dutch retail giant Ahold and Belgian rival Delhaize on Saturday said they had finalised their mega-merger after US regulatory authorities gave the union the green light.
Both groups said they had inked an agreement to take effect from 2201 GMT after the Federal Trade Commission gave its assent.
The FTC had earlier said the sale of 81 stores must be split between seven different US buyers.
"With our new management team we are very happy to continue to serve our clients and other shareholders," said Ahold CEO Dick Boer, who becomes CEO of the merged firm with Frans Muller, chief executive of Delhaize, to serve as his deputy.
Delhaize chairman Mats Jansson said the two companies were coming together "to create an even stronger international retailer".
Between them the firms have 6,750 stores in Europe and the United States and employ 380,000 people.
Based in Zaandam just outside Amsterdam, Ahold announced in June last year it was merging with Delhaize to create one of the world's largest retail companies with a turnover of more than 54 billion euros ($59 billion).
It agreed earlier this month to sell 86 US-based stores to receive approval from competition authorities.
Analysts say the merger will create the fifth-largest grocery chain in the fiercely-contested US market and the fourth-largest in Europe.
The pair achieved total sales last year of 62 billion euros ($70 billion) -- 38.2 billion for Ahold and 24.4 billion for Delhaize.
The two groups see themselves as complementary in the US market, where Ahold is present mostly in the northeast with its Stop&Shop, while Delhaize's Food Lion is prevalent in the southeast.
In Europe, the two companies seldom overlap in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Ahold shareholders will own 61 percent of the combined company and Delhaize Group shareholders the remaining 39 percent.
The firms estimate potential annual synergies of as much as 500 million euros within three years.
The merged entity will be quoted as "AD" on the Amsterdam and Brussels bourses from Monday.