Toshiba granted a consortium led by Japan Industrial Partners preferred bidder status for a buyout of the iconic firm, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Private equity firm JIP was looking to acquire Toshiba in partnership with multiple domestic companies including Orix and Chubu Electric Power, they said. Toshiba considered that a sale to JIP would keep the company as one entity, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private.

Deliberations are ongoing and no final decision has been made, the people said. Other bidders remain interested in the assets, they added. Midori Hara, a spokeswoman for Toshiba, declined to comment on the matter, saying to do so may undermine a fair process. JIP wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Representatives from both Chubu Electric and Orix declined to comment. The Nikkei newspaper earlier reported JIP was Toshiba’s preferred bidder. Toshiba shares rose as much as 3.5% in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The conglomerate has been seeking strategic proposals for its future, including potential buyout bids. It had targeted second-round offers by the end of September, people familiar with the process told Bloomberg last month. State-backed investment fund Japan Investment Corp. was leading a rival group to JIP, with other investors such as Bain Capital and MBK Partners in talks to be involved in its bid, the people said.

JIP is expected to have a month to negotiate with Toshiba, and it’s unclear if it will be able to agree on terms in that period, the Nikkei said.