The UK government has indicated it is prepared to rescue large British companies severely affected by the coronavirus crisis.
The Treasury said “last resort” support could be made available if a firm’s failure would “disproportionately harm the UK economy”.
The move follows indications that a number of big firms are seeking government help to survive the crisis.
These include Jaguar Land Rover, which is in talks to secure a £1bn loan.
The government has already put in place various initiatives to help companies weather the pandemic, including loan programmes, deferring of tax payments and the furlough scheme, which allows workers to receive 80% of their salary paid by the government.
According to latest figures, eight million workers are covered by the furlough scheme.
However, concern is growing that some big firms are still in difficulties even after making use of these options.
The bailout plan, named “Project Birch”, was mentioned by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in Parliament last week when discussing the future of the aviation industry.
It could involve the state taking stakes in companies, although extending existing loans would be preferable.
A Treasury spokeswoman said: “We have put in place unprecedented levels of support to help businesses get through this crisis.
“Beyond that, many firms are getting support from established market mechanisms, such as existing shareholders, bank lending and commercial finance.
“In exceptional circumstances, where a viable company has exhausted all options and its failure would disproportionately harm the economy, we may consider support on a ‘last resort’ basis.