German sportswear giant adidas-Salomon has been granted EU regulatory approval for its US$3.8bn takeover of Reebok International - as shareholders make their verdict on the deal.

The European Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European sporting goods industry.

Reebok shareholders will vote on the deal today (25 January 2006), which is expected to pass without controversy, and adidas said the transaction could close as early as 31 January 2006.

Adidas-Salomon chairman and CEO Herbert Hainer said: "We are excited to have reached this important milestone. We now expect that the transaction will close shortly, following approval of Reebok's shareholders.

"To help ensure we hit the ground running on day one, our two companies have jointly developed an integration plan that leverages the talents and expertise of both companies, which we will implement as soon as the transaction closes. We look forward to quickly realising the many benefits afforded by our combination with Reebok."

The Commission's investigation, focused on the market for athletic footwear in Europe, showed there are some horizontal overlaps between the activities of adidas and Reebok, but that essentially, the two companies had different brand and pricing positions and targeted different customers.

The European Commission said in a statement: "The market investigation revealed that adidas and Reebok have slightly different brand and pricing positions. Adidas is perceived as a professional, technically oriented brand with strong European roots. Reebok predominantly targets young people and women, is more a 'leisure' brand and has a stronger presence in American sports that are not excessively popular in Europe."

The commission stated that Reebok's image on the European markets is weaker than that of adidas and Nike. Its investigation did not find any evidence that the merged entity would be able to increase prices on the competitive sales of sports shoes, because of intense competition coming from several players with significant market shares in this area.

The deal would close down Nike's top market share in sporting goods.