NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Shares of General Maritime ( GMR), the troubled oil tanker operator, were plunging nearly 30% Thursday morning after the company delayed the filing of its 10-K annual report and said it was meeting with creditors in order restructure its burdensome debt load.

Analysts say the restructuring will likely take the form of an equity issuance, diluting shareholders.

"The only question left to answer is how shareholder friendly the transaction will be," wrote Credit Suisse ( CS) analyst Gregory Lewis in a note to clients Thursday morning.

General Maritime made its announcement after the closing bell on Wednesday. It was slated to release fourth-quarter results.

In its press release, the company said it is meeting with its bankers and "prospective investors to seek additional liquidity through potential restructuring or refinancing of its existing credit facilities and/or issuance of debt or equity which have not yet concluded."

In early trades Thursday, General Maritime shares were moving at $1.81, down 69 cents or $28%. More than a million shares had changed hands in the first 15 minutes of trading, about half the daily average turnover in the name.

Also known as Genmar, the New York-based shipowner has struggled since it acquired seven supertankers last summer for $620 million. When rates for crude carriers declined and stayed low, Genmar's balance sheet soured. Since June 2010, when the company announced the deal, its stock has lost 78% of its value.

The deal was then seen as a daring move by Genmar founder and chairman Peter Georgiopoulos, who was looking to build his company into a more serious global rival to the tanker industry's largest players, such as Frontline ( FRO), Overseas Shipholding ( OSG) and the privately held Maran Tankers.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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