Private equity titan Blackstone Group Inc. is sending a directive to portfolio companies: Do whatever it takes to stave off a credit crunch.

The 35-year-old firm is asking companies it controls to draw down their bank credit lines to help prevent any liquidity shortfalls amid signs of mounting stress in markets, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The discussions focus on sectors impacted by the spread of the coronavirus, such as the hospitality industry, as well as energy firms facing a slump in oil prices.

A spokesman for Blackstone declined to comment.

Blackstone’s private equity operation is the firm’s largest business by assets, at $183 billion. Energy accounts for almost 10% of the total portfolio, the New York-based company said in October. Rival private equity firms also are weighing similar actions, according to executives at two of them.

It’s a sign of the uncertainty coursing through corporate America as a confluence of crises -- now including a global pandemic and a price war in oil markets -- threaten to tip the U.S. economy into a recession as early as this year. A sudden and sustained increase in companies tapping credit lines could eventually strain banks if conditions become so dire that borrowers won’t be able to meet their obligations.

“From an economic perspective, the virus has created dislocation in the market and fear among the people,” Blackstone co-founder Stephen Schwarzman said in an interview in Mumbai last week. “Once that starts, one has to find the impact of negative consequences.”

Banks offer revolving credit lines to strengthen relationships with companies and don’t typically intend for them to be drawn upon en masse. In normal times, revolvers serve as the corporate equivalent of credit cards, giving companies room to borrow as needed and repay when shortfalls ease -- and under normal circumstances, the lines are seldom maxed out. Extensive use can be seen as a harbinger of distress.

This article provided by Bloomberg News.