OSAKA (Kyodo) Shareholders of Daimaru Inc. and Matsuzakaya Holdings Co. on Thursday approved a plan to merge, formally clearing the way to the creation of Japan’s biggest department store group in September.

The merger plan was put to a vote at a general shareholders’ meeting held by Daimaru in Osaka and a similar meeting held by Matsuzakaya in Nagoya.

The Sept. 3 merger will create a new leader in department store industry with combined consolidated sales of 1.17 trillion yen as of Feb. 28, surpassing Takashimaya Co., the current leader.

“We have concluded that the best thing to do will be to combine our business knowhow and take the offensive in order to ride out the increasingly stiff competition in the department store business,” Daimaru Chairman Tsutomu Okuda said at the company’s shareholders’ meeting as he explained the plan.

Okuda is due to become chief executive officer of a holding company that will be set up through the planned merger.

The holding company, to be named J.Front Retailing Co., will turn Daimaru and Matsuzakaya into subsidiaries through equity swaps. The two will be delisted from stock exchanges in late August.

The holding company will then go public on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the Osaka Securities Exchange and the Nagoya Stock Exchange on Sept. 3.

Matsuzakaya Chairman Kunihiko Okada has been nominated to become chairman of the new holding company.

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