Merck & Co shareholders have voted overwhelmingly to approve the proposed merger with Schering-Plough, the company has announced.

Preliminary tabulation from a special meeting held on 7 August 2009 indicates that more than 99% of shareholders voted in favour of the transaction, valued at an estimated $41bn.

Merck chairman, president and chief executive officer Richard T Clark said that the outcome demonstrated the high level of shareholder confidence.

“We look forward to completing the merger with Schering-Plough and to creating a strong global leader that can make a substantial difference to patients and global healthcare,” Clark said.

As per the agreement announced on 9 March 2009, Schering-Plough shareholders will receive 0.5767 of a share of new Merck common stock and $10.50 in cash for each share of Schering-Plough.

For Merck shareholders, existing Merck share certificates will automatically represent an equal number of shares in the new Merck after completion of the merger.

The merger was spurred on by the announcement in early August that Merck had agreed to sell its 50% stake in animal health business Merial to Sanofi-Aventis, who owned the other 50%, for $4bn.

The company expects the transaction to close in the fourth quarter of 2009, subject to approval by US and European regulators.