Troubled may be headed toward a breakup and sell-off rather than a restructuring under bankruptcy protection, two news organizations reported Thursday.

Citing unnamed sources, the Globe and Mail in Toronto and The Wall Street Journal say that Nortel, which employs some 2,000 people in the Triangle area, is discussing sale of two core business units.

“Nortel Networks Corp. is looking to break itself up by selling off major divisions rather than trying to rebuild itself under bankruptcy protection,” of the company, which is based in Canada.

If the sales were to take place,

Nortel could sell its wireless equipment business and another unit that manufactures telecommunications systems for offices. The two groups were responsible for some $6.7 billion in sales in 2008 and generated more than half of Nortel’s revenues last year, the Globe and Mail noted.

Approval by bankruptcy judges in Canada and the United States would be required for any sale.

"There is a process under way," one person familiar with the discussions told the Toronto newspaper.

"The consensus all along was that it would be carved up," another person familiar with the discussions told the Toronto newspaper.

The Journal, meanwhile, quoted a source as saying, "What we are finding is that there may be a lot more value by selling rather than emerging. … The company was surprised by the amount of interest and the number of calls."

Nortel declined comment for the papers’ stories.

"We’ve indicated in the past that we’re going to build a plan and that once we have that plan in place, we’re going to present it to the courts," Nortel spokesperson Mohammed Nakhooda told the Globe and Mail on Wednesday night. "Right now, we’re in the early stages of building that plan, but we’re making progress. Time is obviously of the essence and we’re moving as quickly as we can with speed and purpose."

Potential buyers include Avaya and Siemens Enterprise Communications.
Cisco Systems reportedly was interested in buying some Nortel assets but did not enter a bid, the Globe and Mail and the Journal both said.

Nortel recently announced plans to lay off 3,200 employees as part of the restructuring.