Creditors of Nortel Networks Corp., the defunct telecommunications company, were asked to extend for four days their negotiations over how to split $9 billion in cash between bondholders and retirees.

Nortel once employed some 8,000 people at its RTP campus.

On Thursday, Mediator Warren K. Winkler, chief justice of Ontario, asked participants in the talks, which began Jan. 14, to stay in Toronto and work toward a settlement until noon on Jan. 22.

“The mediator had asked each stakeholder group to have personnel present with the appropriate authority to conduct settlement negotiations,” according to a statement on the mediator’s website.

The mediation pits Nortel’s Canadian and U.S. entities and their creditors against the company’s European units and their creditors, who include retirees seeking to retain pensions.

The groups are fighting over a shrinking pile of cash that won’t cover all of the debts owed by Nortel and its units. Creditors have presented more than $36 billion in claims in Canada, according to a status report filed in a Toronto court in October.

Without a mediated end to the disputes, court battles may break out in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and France with conflicting rulings by different judges, according to Winkler.

“This would be a catastrophic outcome,” Winkler wrote in April, when the current mediation started. The first two mediation efforts failed.
Nortel, based in Mississauga, Ontario, filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

[NORTEL ARCHIVE: Check out a decade of Nortel stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]