UK supermarket company Wm Morrison has announced that it has completed its merger with rival supermarket chain Safeway, more than one year after it launched its initial takeover bid for the chain.

“Today marks the end of a process that started well over a year ago but it also marks an exciting beginning for our new company,” said Sir Ken Morrison, executive chairman of Morrisons.

“In January last year we promised that this merger would create a major fourth force in UK food retailing. We must now focus all our energy and the very considerable talents of all of our employees on delivering that promise. We have clear and detailed integration plans and I remain very confident that we can put these plans in place quickly and effectively,” Morrison added.

The initial bid for Safeway by the Yorkshire-based retailer sparked interest and potential offers from several other major retailers and investment groups, leading to a review by the UK’s Competition Commission of the potential takeover of Safeway.

Morrisons was eventually cleared to bid for Safeway, on the condition it divest around 52 stores. Despite rumours of last-ditch attempts by other retailers to block the merger, Morrisons launched a second bid of around £3bn (US$5.6bn) for Safeway just before Christmas and the bid was later accepted by both groups of shareholders.