Banque Nationale de Paris' protracted battle to take over Paribas and Societe Generale came to a head Friday as stockholders in all three banks voted their shares.
Although the final tally will not be known for another two weeks, bankers and analysts said last week that the result could well be a stalemate.
BNP is likely to get no more than one-third of Societe Generale's shares outstanding and is in danger of winning less than 50% of Paribas.
Meanwhile, Societe Generale's separate bid for Paribas may also fail.
In a worst-case scenario, Societe Generale, France's biggest commercial bank, could end up with a large and hostile minority shareholder.
BNP has offered nearly $39 billion for both Societe Generale and Paribas in a deal that would create a retail-oriented bank with more than $1.1 trillion of assets, the world's biggest.
Societe Generale has offered nearly $20 billion for Paribas as part of a bid to build a strong French investment banking and capital markets company.
Andre Levy-Lang, Paribas' chairman and chief executive officer, acknowledged late last month that there was a clear risk BNP would gain control of Paribas as well as a minority stake in Societe Generale.
"It would be the worst of all worlds," Mr. Levy-Lang said. "They won't get the benefits of a retail merger and will have all the problems of a hostile takeover."
Shareholders in all three banks, he added, could wind up being the biggest losers.
Foreign shareholders hold more than 50% of Societe Generale and about 40% each in BNP and Paribas. As a block, they hold the deciding vote over the two competing bids.
Under French banking regulations, BNP will have to present a working plan to regulators if it wins the shares of less than 50% of either banking company.