Officials in Europe have given their stamp of approval to a marriage between generic drugmakers Watson and Actavis.

The move clears another hurdle to Watson's 4.3 billion euro purchase of the firm, which could create the world's third largest generics company with sales of around $8 billion.

Approval from the European Commission 'represents a significant milestone' as Watson works towards completing the deal later this year, said its chief executive Paul Bisaro. 

The companies are still awaiting regulatory approval from the US Federal Trade Commission on the other side of the pond. Nevertheless, Watson is optimistic, saying it continues to expect to seal the deal sometime in the fourth quarter of this year.

The group first announced its intention to buy Switzerland-based Actavis back in April, in a move that Bisaro said at the time would double its international access and give it a stronger foothold in Europe's established and emerging markets.

Watson expects the deal to be immediately accretive, with annual synergies of more than $300 million within three years.

For Actavis, the deal represents "an ideal complementary fit" that will "enhance its position among the industry leaders", noted the firm's chief executive Claudio Albrecht earlier this year.