CALGARY -- Husky Energy Inc. shareholders have approved a $3.8-billion all-share takeover bid by rival Cenovus Energy Inc., hours before Cenovus shareholders are widely expected to do the same.

The endorsement by Husky investors was resounding, with more than 95 per cent of votes cast in favour of the acquisition.

Frank Sixt, a director of Husky Energy, told a special shareholder meeting today he's confident the new company will be more competitive, profitable and sustainable.

The acquisition comes at a pivotal time in Canada's energy sector as the collapse in oil prices and global pandemic puts pressure on the oil and gas industry.

The combined company would create the third-largest Canadian oil and natural gas producer by total production, one that Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix says will better weather energy market volatility while generating more cash flow, reducing debt and cutting overall costs.

The transaction has been approved by both boards and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021, pending both shareholder and regulatory approvals.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2020.