CHARLOTTE (AP) _ First Union Corp. and First Fidelity Bancorp. shareholders on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a proposed $5.4 billion merger between the two banks.

At a special First Union shareholders' meeting that lasted 15 minutes, about 90 percent of the shares voted in favor of the merger with First Fidelity, New Jersey's largest bank.

At a meeting in Philadelphia, 99 percent of First Fidelity shares were cast in favor of the merger, which is expected to close by the end of the year.

In one of the largest bank deals in history, Charlotte, N.C.-based First Union and First Fidelity, based in Newark and Philadelphia, will create a banking company with $126 billion and 2,000 offices from Connecticut to Florida.

The combination must still be approved by bank regulators.

In Charlotte, protestors dozens of protestors led by self-described ``bank terrorist'' Bruce Marks of Boston, were rebuffed in their effort to disrupt the meeting.

Marks and his Boston-based community group, Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, oppose the merger on charges that First Union's lending policies discriminate against minorities.

``This deal is bad for the people of New Jersey and bad for the people of North Carolina,'' Marks said.``The only people who like it are First Union management.''

Marks and several other demonstrators were able to get as far as the 12th story auditorium. But they never got inside the meeting.