The shareholders at three Russian beer companies have approved a merger with Baltika.

At extraordinary general meetings held on Monday (21 August), shareholders at Pikra, Vena and Yarpivo voted in favour of the long-awaited merger with Baltika. Scottish & Newcastle, joint venture partners in all four brewers' parent company Baltic Beverages Holding, has welcomed the decision, noting that completion of the merger is expected by the end of this year.

"This approval is another step towards completion of the merger," S&N said. "The next stage in the process will be official approval of the restructuring by regulatory agencies."

Earlier this year, Baltika issued an additional 48.2m new shares, and gave shareholders of Pikra, Vena and Yarpivo the opportunity to exchange their holdings in the three companies for shares in Baltika.

Despite initial protests from some of Baltika's minority shareholders, the transaction finally won approval in March, after the exchange ratios were improved. Instead of taking cash for its stakes - which was causing the disapproval - BBH agreed to exchange its holdings for shares in the enlarged Baltika.

"The breweries are working at full speed toward integration of production, sales, distribution and administration," S&N added. "This merger will strengthen Baltika's position as Russia's leading consumer goods brand."

S&N owns BBH along with Carlsberg. The joint venture is the largest brewer in Russia, with 36% market share.