Molson Inc. shareholders on Friday voted strongly in favour of the company's merger with Adolph Coors Co.

At a meeting in Montreal, 80.2 per cent of the votes cast by class A shareholders were in favour of the deal, while 84.3 per cent of the votes from class B shareholders backed the merger.

"This has been a long process and I am thankful that our shareholders have supported us and have understood the strategic and economic value of this transaction," said Molson chairman Eric Molson in a release.

Shareholders of Coors will vote on the deal on Feb. 1 in Golden, Colo.

The deal will go to the Quebec Superior Court for approval on Feb. 2.

The deal is expected to close on Feb. 9, the day that a new Molson Coors stock is expected to start trading on the TSX and the NYSE.

Back in July 2004, Molson and Coors announced plans for the merger that will create a new brewing giant with $6 billion US in sales.

The new Molson Coors Brewing Company, created from Canada's largest brewer and the third biggest in the United States, would be the fifth-biggest brewer in the world by volume of beer sold.

Molson Coors Brewing Company will have 15 breweries and 14,800 employees in four countries.

Leading up to the Molson vote, many analysts and market watchers had been expecting a much closer result. Molson added an extra enticement for shareholders when it boosted a special cash divided to $5.44 a share that was payable if the merger deal is approved. The original special dividend was set at $3.26 a share.

The Molson-Coors merger touched off a fight within the founding family of Molson. Eric Molson, backed the deal, while his cousin, former vice-chairman Ian Molson, said he would vote against the merger.

Molson shares fell 63 cents to $37.72 in Toronto, while Coors stock lost lost $2.14 US to close 2.9 per cent lower at $77.75 US in New York.