UK petrochemicals company Ineos is reportedly in exclusive negotiations with US firm ConocoPhillips to acquire its oil and gas fields worth $3bn in the North Sea.

Owned by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, Ineos has secured three months’ exclusivity on the potential purchase from ConocoPhillips by paying a deposit, reported.

The publication added that the deal could be financed by HSBC and Citigroup.

In May, Reuters said that ConocoPhillips was looking to divest its North Sea assets in a bid to focus on US shale gas production.

“The company expects to retain the UK assets if proposed bids fail to meet its expectations.”

Last week, Bloomberg carried a report stating the company is planning to sell assets worth $3bn, including its interest in the Clair field west of Shetland, by the end of the year after receiving an unsolicited offer.

The company expects to retain the UK assets if proposed bids fail to meet its expectations.

Bloomberg also stated that ConocoPhillips’ negotiations with Ineos do not include its Teesside or London assets.

The proposed acquisition is expected to enhance Ineos’ presence in the North Sea, where the company bought several assets in 2015.

Last year, Ineos acquired Danish firm Dong Energy’s North Sea oil and gas business for more than $1bn.

If the company fails to strike a deal with ConocoPhillips, private equity firms Neptune and Chrysaor are expected to make a bid for the US company’s assets, added.

In July, ConocoPhillips entered a deal to exchange its North Sea assets for BP’s Alaskan assets. The transaction included the sale of the company’s 16.5% stake in the Clair field.

With this deal, BP increased its interest in the field to 45.1%. ConocoPhillips retained a 7.5% interest in the field.