(Bloomberg) -- Gulfport Energy Corp. is considering merging with closely held Encino Energy LLC after discussions with rival oil and gas explorer Ascent Resources collapsed, according to people familiar with the matter. 

Gulfport and Encino have discussed a stock-based transaction, said one of the people, who asked to not be identified as the talks are private. Talks are at an early stage, a deal isn’t imminent and the companies could decide against pursuing a merger, the people added. 

Gulfport had discussed merging with Ascent in a deal that would value the combined company at about $8 billion, Bloomberg News reported in March. 

Gulfport fell 5.1% to $79.22 at 1:53 p.m. in New York trading Thursday, giving the Oklahoma City-based company a market value of about $1.7 billion. 

A representative for Gulfport declined to comment. Representatives for Encino and Ascent didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Energy companies are considering pairing up amid rebounding commodity prices. Last month, Permian Basin explorer Centennial Resource Development Inc. agreed to buy private equity-backed rival Colgate Energy in a deal valued at about $2.5 billion. 

Gulfport, which emerged from bankruptcy last year, is active in the natural-gas rich Utica Shale of Ohio. Encino also has operations there, after an affiliate bought Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s operations in the basin for about $1.9 billion in 2018. 

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