US oil services company Baker Hughes said Friday it was in preliminary talks with Halliburton on a possible merger, confirming media reports on the negotiations.
In a brief statement, Baker Hughes, the world's third-biggest company in the oil field services industry by market capitalization, said the discussions "may or may not lead to any transaction" with Halliburton Company, the world's second-largest in the sector.
The announcement comes with oil prices at their lowest levels since 2010. That could force oil companies to trim their exploration operations, dealing a blow to subcontractors like Baker Hughes and Halliburton.
Baker Hughes shares shot up 15 percent Thursday on the first word of the talks, raising its market value to $25.4 billion.
Halliburton has a market capitalization of $45.5 billion, while the world's leader in the field, Schlumberger, has one of $122 billion.
The Baker Hughes statement said little else.
The Wall Street Journal said earlier that talks had accelerated in recent days and a deal could be imminent.
The paper said the two companies' activities overlap in many areas, which would allow for productivity gains after a restructuring is carried out. Both are based in Houston.
The Journal said a merged company would rise to the top global ranks in several sectors including fracking, in which it would control a 36 percent stake in the market.