Shareholders in Massmart have voted overwhelmingly to support Wal-Mart Stores’ plans to acquire a 51% stake in the South African retailer.

At a shareholder meeting today (17 January) more than 97% of the total eligible votes made in favour of the US$2.3bn bid.

Wal-Mart pay ZAR148 a share for 51% of the business, with the deal remaining subject to regulatory approval.

The move will see Wal-Mart enter the African continent through one of the largest distributors of consumer goods in the region, with some 290 outlets across 13 countries in Africa, with the majority of stores based in South Africa.

The retailer said it is expected that an application will be made on 1 February at the South Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg to sanction the scheme.

Unions representing Massmart workers have vowed to oppose the plans and said today they will challenge the proposed takeover through South African competition law and in the political realm, and will “continue to directly educate its union membership about the implications for workers should the takeover proceed”.

Wal-Mart originally intended to acquire the entire business, but after talks with shareholders, scaled back its bid.