Shareholders in Smithfield Foods today (24 September) voted in favour of the sale of the world’s largest pork processor to China’s Shuanghui International.

Smithfield investors representing over three-quarters of the company’s outstanding shares have backed what will be the largest takeover of a US company by a Chinese firm.

Shuanghui’s bid, announced in May, had provoked some political unease in the US and divided Smithfield shareholders.

However, Smithfield said 96% of the votes cast at a meeting today to vote on the Shuanghui offer backed the bid, which values the company, including debt at US$7.1bn.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s vote and thank all of our shareholders for their support,” president and CEO Larry Pope said. “This is a great transaction for all Smithfield stakeholders, as well as for American farmers and US agriculture. The partnership is all about growth, and about doing more business at home and abroad. It will remain business as usual – only better – at Smithfield, and we look forward to embarking on this new chapter.”

The deal is expected to close on Thursday. Investors will receive $34 in cash for each share they own.

The vote follows weeks of moves by one shareholder to come up with rival offers before throwing in the towel.

Hedge fund Starboard Value, which owns over 5% of Smithfield, had criticised the Shuanghui offer for “significantly under-valuing” the company. It said dividing Smithfield into its constituent parts and selling it off piecemeal would create more value for shareholders.

Starboard sought alternative bids. Two weeks ago, Starboard claimed to have secured indications of interest that could have led to a more valuable offer. It urged fellow shareholders to say they would vote against the Shuanghui offer in an attempt to postpone today’s meeting and allow the pork giant time to canvass for rival bids.

However, on Friday, Starboard said it decided to back the bid after failing to come up with a bid that met the conditions of the merger agreement between Smithfield and Shuanghui.

Two corporate advisory firms, Glass Lewis and ISS, had recommended shareholders support the deal.