Oil group BP is thought to be looking to sell up to £6billion of shares to strategic investors as part of a defence strategy to ward off hostile takeover bids.
The battered blue-chip company is believed to be sounding out sovereign wealth funds to take a stake of between 5% and 10%.
Pressure on the group shows no sign of letting up in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.
Speculation over an imminent management shake-up continues to swirl, as it is thought both chief executive Tony Hayward and chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg are preparing to head for the exit as soon as the oil flow is halted.
BP has now lost more than 50% of its stock market value since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank on April 20, killing 11 workers and causing the worst US oil spill in history.
Its share-price plunge has put the group at potential risk of an unwanted takeover approach from rivals such as ExxonMobil or Shell.
To secure its independence, BP is said to be hoping to strike a deal similar to that seen with Barclays at the height of the financial crisis.
The bank avoided a government bailout by raising more than £7billion from wealthy foreign investors, including the state investment funds of Qatar and Abu Dhabi.
BP is facing fresh criticism over its approach to safety as it emerged that it did not use an industry-standard process, known as a safety case, to assess risk at the Deepwater Horizon rig.
A spokeswoman confirmed that it did not use the procedure, developed in Britain after the Piper Alpha tragedy, at any of its US wells as there was no legal requirement in the US to use it.
Meanwhile, a supertanker adapted to scoop up oil from the gulf spill began tests on Saturday.
The vessel, dubbed a “super-skimmer”, is operating just north of the blown-out well as part of a two-day test watched by the US Coast Guard.
TMT Shipping Offshore, which owns the vessel, hopes to sign a clean-up contract for the ship, which can remove up to 500,000 barrels of oil-and-water mix from the sea surface a day.
The US Interior Department, one of the departments spearheading Washington’s response to the spill, could issue a revised moratorium on offshore oil drilling in US waters this week.
A federal court has lifted a six-month drilling ban imposed by the Obama administration as a result of the spill. The new moratorium is expected to be more flexible and could be adjusted to allow drilling in certain fields.
In a related development, a US presidential panel that will probe the cause of the spill and recommend new rules to prevent future disasters will hold its first public meeting in New Orleans on July 12-13.