PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Shareholders of telecommunications companies Consolidated Communications and FairPoint Communications voted on Tuesday to approve a proposed merger.
Consolidated announced in December it was buying FairPoint for $1.5 billion, assuming its debt and offering dividends to stockholders. Shareholder voting took place Tuesday at Consolidated in Illinois and at FairPoint in North Carolina.
FairPoint, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a telephone and internet provider that serves homes, businesses and public institutions. The lion's share of FairPoint's business is in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
The two companies emphasized that shareholders resoundingly approved of the merger. Consolidated officials said the merger will enable "long-term growth" for the company.
"Today our shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of the merger bringing together two companies to create one strong, leading, business and broadband provider serving 24 states," said Bob Udell, president and chief executive officer at Consolidated Communications.
Consolidated said 98 percent of its shareholders who voted were in support of the merger, accounting for more than 70 percent of the company's outstanding stock. FairPoint reported that approximately 96 percent of shareholders who voted approved, representing nearly 75 percent of the company's outstanding stock.
Consolidated, based in Mattoon, Illinois, provides business and broadband communications in 11 states. A merger with FairPoint would significantly broaden its portfolio.
FairPoint has a fiber-based Ethernet network with about 18,000 miles of fiber wires in northern New England and is a major player in telecommunications in the region.
There remain regulatory hurdles for the two companies to clear before the merger can be finalized. FairPoint officials said they expect the transaction to be complete by the middle of the year.
Public utilities commissions in the northern New England states will hold hearings in April and May on the merger.
FairPoint officials said the companies are "securing the necessary state and federal regulatory approvals" to close the deal.