U.S. antitrust enforcers appear poised to give final approval to the proposed merger of Ahold NV of the Netherlands and Delhaize Group from Belgium—a deal that would create one of the largest supermarket operators in North America.

A person close to the deal said that while the Federal Trade Commission's review wasn't officially completed, the companies were optimistic the merger would be approved as soon as Friday.

Last week, Ahold and Delhaize said they had agreed to sell 86 U.S. stores to seven buyers in a bid to receive approval of their roughly $31 billion merger by the end of the month.

Combining Ahold, which owns the Stop & Shop and Giant chains in the U.S., with Delhaize, the retailers behind American chains Food Lion and Hannaford, would give the grocers new muscle in the U.S. market at a time of increasing competition from deep discounters such Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

A FTC spokeswoman declined to comment. The Belgian Competition Authority granted conditional approval of the merger in March.

The merger would also help the retailers compete with online food ordering services such as Amazon Inc.'s push into groceries.

Ahold runs the Peapod online grocery delivery service, and company executives told investors in June that it had experienced double-digit sales growth during its first fiscal quarter ending April 24—and expanded its number of customers in New York City.

The two companies operate roughly 2,000 stores along the East Coast but there is little overlap in their locations, an aspect that made the proposed merger easier than other big deals from a competition aspect. The new company, to be called Ahold Delhaize, would still trail Kroger Co. and Albertsons Cos. in total number of stores.

In the U.S., Ahold is based in Massachusetts, and Delhaize is based in North Carolina.

Write to Heather Haddon at heather.haddon@wsj.com and Brent Kendall at brent.kendall@wsj.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 21, 2016 17:15 ET (21:15 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2016 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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