Shareholders in Italian-American carmaker Fiat Chrysler and France's Peugeot owner PSA Group voted overwhelmingly on Monday to approve the companies' merger, removing the last major obstacle to the creation of the world's fourth largest auto manufacturer.
The new company, which will be called Stellantis, is expected to formally start operations no later than the end of March. According to statements from both companies, more than 99 percent of shareholder votes cast were in favor of the merger worth 38 billion U.S. dollars.
The PSA Group's main shareholders include Chinese carmaker Dongfeng Motor Corporation.
The vote came weeks after the companies had agreed on organizational issues, such as the composition of the new entity's management team. The deal received the European Commission's regulatory approval in December.
In a statement, Fiat Chrysler said it expected the technical aspects of the merger to be settled by Jan. 16. Accordingly, Stellantis shares will start trading on the stock exchanges in Milan, Paris and New York on Jan. 18.
Stellantis will bring together 14 brands, including Italy-based Fiat and Maserati; United States-based Dodge, Jeep, and Ram, all from Fiat Chrysler; and Citroen, Opel and Peugeot, all from the PSA Group.
Fiat Chrysler Chairman John Elkann, who will hold the same position at Stellantis, predicted in a statement that the new company is "intent on playing a leading role" as "the coming decade will redefine mobility as we know it."
The PSA Group's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Carlos Tavares, who will be Stellantis' CEO, said the new company is ready" for the challenges that await it, including increasing its market share in China, and developing cars with low environmental impact.
However, the new company will face other major challenges as well, analysts agreed. Recent reports indicate that Chrysler-branded vehicles sold in the North American market would likely be phased out. In European markets, the consulting firm LMC said Stellantis will have to work to avoid having some of its brands gain market share at the expense of other Stellantis brands.
LMC also said Fiat Chrysler and the PSA Group are both operating at around eight percent of their production capacity in Asia, with most of that capacity based in China, which is the world's largest auto market, according to the data firm Statista.
As part of the terms of Monday's vote, Fiat Chrysler shareholders will be paid a pre-merger dividend of 2.9 billion euros (3.6 billion U.S. dollars), i.e. 1.84 euros for each share held on Jan. 15, the final trading day before the company's shares are phased out in favor of Stellantis shares.
Though the outcome of Monday's vote was widely expected, shareholders in both companies bid shares higher after the vote. Both companies' shares opened even with Friday's close, but then surged after the results of the two votes were announced. At the end of the day on Monday, Fiat Chrysler shares gained 1.5 percent in trading on Milan's Italian Stock Exchange, while on the Euronext Exchange in Paris, Peugeot's shares gained 1.7 percent on Monday. (1 euro = 1.22 U.S. dollar) Enditem