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MCI shareholders approve Verizon merger

Eighty-eight percent vote in favor of the deal. Focus is now on obtaining regulatory approval.

MCI shareholders voted on Thursday to give the $8.44 billion merger with Verizon Communications the green light.

The merger, which was approved by 88 percent of MCI's shareholders, faced resistance early on from a group of investors who felt that MCI's board of directors should have accepted a higher bid from Qwest Communications International. Despite this resistance, MCI's board of directors accepted the Verizon offer, and Qwest last week declined to renew its bid.

The companies will now focus on obtaining the remaining federal, state and international approvals. The merger is expected to close in early 2006.

"Today's vote brings us an important step closer to completing the MCI transaction," Verizon Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg said in a statement. "We look forward to creating a company that is better able to compete in today's large-business and government marketplace, invest in critical infrastructure and offer the nation's most advanced broadband platform with next-generation multimedia services."

Verizon shares were down 83 cents, to $31.15, in early trading Thursday. MCI was down $1.57, to $27.56, in the same period.