FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Hoechst shareholders voted overwhelmingly today merge the company's life science business with that of France's Rhone-Poulenc.

Investors representing 64.8 percent of the company's stock voted 99.7 percent in favor of forming Aventis, a huge drug and agricultural chemical conglomerate to be headquartered in Strasbourg, France.

The merger is scheduled for November, pending approval of European Union antitrust authorities. Rhone-Poulenc shareholders approved the merger earlier this week.

A second vote to spin off the group's industrial chemicals unit to Hoechst shareholders as Celanese AG received even stronger support at 99.9 percent.

Objections from small shareholders had held up the voting, which had been expected to take place on Thursday, the first day of the meeting called expressly for the merger.

While most large, institutional investors and banks were satisfied with the proposal, small shareholders wanted more details, saying they are concerned about their post-merger rights, tax implications of the deal and other issues.

Shareholders continued to question minute details of the merger during Friday's meeting, inspiring concerns that the vote might not happen by a midnight deadline. That would have meant a costly delay for the merger, because another vote could not have been held until September.

Even after the vote, a small shareholder claimed Hoechst violated the protocol of the meeting by failing to provide a complete list of all shareholders present.

Hoechst supervisory board Chairman Martin Fruehauf ruled the company had fulfilled its legal obligations and that the vote was valid.