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Employees torque a pipe at a wedge well at Christina Lake, a situ oil production facility half owned by Cenovus Energy Inc. and ConocoPhillips, in Conklin, Alberta, Canada, on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013.Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Investors are mad as hell and we'll soon find out how they're going to take it.

Some of Cenovus Energy Inc. shareholders are seething over the company's $17.7-billion oil sands and natural gas acquisition and things could get tense at the company's annual meeting on Wednesday. Since Cenovus announced the deal with ConocoPhillips on March 29, its shares have lost nearly a fifth of their value.

It's been a tough month for Cenovus and its chief executive officer Brian Ferguson, who's known as the oil patch's Mr. Steady-As-She-Goes. He is accustomed to polite interaction with investors who take for granted his conservative approach to the business. This week, some have complained publicly about the massive deal and how it's structured.

Mr. Ferguson took the step last week of setting up a conference call with sell-side analysts to re-explain his view on why the transaction's a good one despite an increasingly murky outlook for energy prices, and how a hefty share issue and proceeds from future asset sales will help pay for it. He talked about how he first proposed doing a deal with Cenovus's 50-50 oil sands partner ConocoPhillips last August and that big parts of it were nailed down in December. So it wasn't exactly a rush into one of Canada's largest-ever energy deals.

Discontent is centred on issues that appear to clash with the traits that helped Cenovus through the worst of the energy-industry collapse – low debt, cash preservation and a laser focus on the company's main projects. Now, debt, at least in the short term, has ballooned and investors are worried about the $3-billion equity issue and asset-sale target as energy markets creak under the weight of a stubborn global oil glut.

On Tuesday, the stock sold for $14.26 in Toronto, well down from the stock-issue price of $16.

The plan is to sell conventional natural gas assets and, possibly, some of the new properties in the Deep Basin region of Alberta, with deals expected before the end of the year, according to GMP FirstEnergy analyst Michael Dunn, who tuned into the conference call on Friday. Cenovus will keep its interests in two U.S. refineries and, Mr. Ferguson contends, the company's investment-grade credit ratings.

Some portfolio managers have said there could be fireworks at Cenovus's annual general meeting on Wednesday afternoon, as shareholders fume over what they believe to be far too big a bite for the company in the current uncertain environment, one that the board should have blocked.

Anyone who's attended more than a few corporate AGMs in Calgary over the years – and full disclosure, I'm in that group – will tell you the action rarely lives up to the billing when it comes to threats of angry, torch-bearing mobs. It's a clubby town. There have been exceptions, though, when companies appear to stray well off track. Maybe, with the energy downturn well into year three, shareholders are near the end of their ropes despite Cenovus's insistence that this is the right deal at the right time.

Other equity-funded deals have received poor early reviews in recent weeks. Another perennial market darling, Painted Pony Petroleum Ltd., has been punished after its acquisition of UGR Blair Creek Ltd. for $230-million in shares. That deal included a $110-million equity issue. Since uncorking the purchase in the Montney region of British Columbia in March, Painted Pony stock is down 19 per cent. Investors have questioned the need for a dilutive deal in the near term, when the company had previously touted many years worth of drilling prospects on its own lands.

Meanwhile, Source Energy Services Ltd.'s initial public offering, announced earlier this month, is down nearly 8 per cent from the $10.50 issue price, and has yet to climb back above it, though the fracking-sand producer had a decent gain on Tuesday.

The first four months of 2017 have made emotional wrecks out of many in the oil patch, largely because the recovery keeps getting postponed. These are deals that investors would be much happier about if there was more clarity in commodity markets. Instead, some spring annual meetings will be very grumpy affairs indeed.

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Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is defending carbon pricing in the wake of news Royal Dutch Shell is selling most of its Canadian oil sands holdings.

The Canadian Press