RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Nortel’s quarterly loss of more than $500 million on Monday was hardly good news for the telecommunications gear maker that filed for bankruptcy in January. But perhaps even worse for its future as one entity were Chief Executive Officer Mike Zafirovski’s comments about the possible breakup of the firm as well as his explanation about steps being made to reorganize it into separate business units.

Separate as in easier to sell?

“Discussions are taking place with various external parties,” he told The Financial Times, confirming months of media speculation, “however decisions have not been taken and we continue to evaluate our restructuring alternatives.”

As for preserving Nortel’s name, Zafirovski told The FT that goal “is not the main driving force.”

Nortel has until July to restructure, based on court deadlines in Canada and the U.S. Meanwhile, Nortel’s 2,000 employees in RTP and elsewhere around the world wonder what the future holds for them.

Will they be part of a shrunken Nortel if they skate through the ongoing layoffs of some 5,000 people? Or will they be working for a Nortel competitor that buys a piece of Nortel’s business? Or will they just be on the street?

The company did open a new network operations center in India this week even as it sold off property in Calgary to local city government for $97 million.

Mike Z. did acknowledge that there has been what he called “lots of interest” in Nortel assets. The FT said in its own words the interests were in assets that “have been offered for sale.”

Interestingly, he noted: “We are moving with speed rather than haste.”

In a statement included with the quarterly financial report, Mike Z. stressed that transitioning the company to “standalone businesses” was “imperative.”

Toward that end, Zafirovski will “decentralize” carrier sales and global operations functions. “This will enhance the business units’ overall responsiveness to changing customer and market requirements and provide the opportunity to better serve customers.”