After proposing an offer worth in excess of USD 10 billion, BP Plc., has emerged as the top dog to acquire the U.S. onshore shale oil & gas assets of BHP Billiton Ltd. According to a person familiar with the matter, the London-based oil & gas industry behemoth has made the highest bid for the assets, which is working in favor of BHP that has plans to sell it in a single package.

If sources are to be believed, the deal has not yet been finalized and it could take several weeks before reaching a definitive agreement. BHP and BP were both not immediately available to comment on the matter.

A year earlier, BHP had announced its plans to sell its US-based assets in the Eagle Ford, Haynesville, Permian, and Fayetteville basins under the pressure from the activist investor Elliott Management Corp., reveal sources familiar with the matter.

According to reports, the total acreage for the sale will include the holdings that BHP bought in a USD 12 billion acquisition of Petrohawk Energy in 2011, which have plunged rapidly in value as natural gas prices fell from USD 4.50 in 2011 to USD 1.60 last year.

For the record, BP has expanded its reach in the U.S. onshore business and has acquired the Bossier & Haynesville shale near the Texas–Louisiana border. However, the company is one among the few oil industry majors that lacks presence in the Permian, where other industry giants including the likes of ExxonMobil Corp., have been expanding aggressively through acquisitions.

Industry experts speculate that the acquisition move of BP represents a big bet on the U.S. oil & gas production at a time when oil & energy prices are rebounding. After emphasizing majorly on natural gas assets, the deal will allow the oil major to further balance its business with oil production.