The UK government has said it would oppose any takeover attempt for oil giant BP from foreign firms, as the company has become an acquisition target given the weakness in oil prices and billions of legal costs related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Media reports said the UK government warned BP of potential takeover attempts and indicated its opposition to such attempts. The government wants the oil giant to remain a British company despite its ongoing troubles.
The dialogue between the government and BP was reported by the Financial Times for the first time.
Downing Street's warning to BP comes as Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell reached a deal to buy UK-based BG Group for $70bn (£46bn, €64bn) earlier in April. The government noted that it would also oppose any potential offer for Shell as well.
BP has a market capitalisation of more than $132bn with a sizable collection of energy assets across the globe. Its global competitors are more likely to buy the firm given its current difficulties.
Analysts have earlier noted that BP could be a potential takeover target of US oil major ExxonMobil, the world's largest non-state oil company.
The UK government may intervene in corporate deals, if there are public-interest concerns, such as on issues of national or financial security, in the deals. The conversations between Prime Minister David Cameron's office and BP happened in recent months, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
"The government talks to a wide range of UK businesses, as you would expect," a spokeswoman for Cameron was quoted as saying by the newspapers.
"It is in the UK's interest to have British companies competing and succeeding at home and abroad."
BP declined to comment on the news.