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A Houston businessman has offered $385 million for Continental Airlines, according to published reports.

The Houston Chronicle and The Houston Post quote sources close to Continental as saying the $385 million would be in cash, with $60 million coming directly from Alfredo Brener.Brener, 40, president of American Breco Corp., is a member of the wealthy Mexican Brener family, the largest independent shareholders of Mexico City-based Mexicana Airlines. Brener also controls franchise rights for Blockbuster Video Stores in Mexico.

Continental, the nation's fifth-largest carrier, has been struggling to emerge from bankruptcy protection since Dec. 3, 1990. The airline needs an outside investor to raise cash needed to put together a financial reorganization plan.

A group led by Charles Hurwitz's Houston-based conglomerate Maxxam signed a preliminary agreement last month with Continental to purchase 72 percent of the company for $350 million.

Bankruptcy Judge Helen Balick approved the tentative deal but gave other interested parties 10 days to look over Continental's books and decide whether they wanted to make bids. The 10 days ended Sunday.

The Hurwitz agreement stipulated that any other competing bid would have to top the Hurwitz-led offer by $35 million. The Brener offer meets that minimum requirement.

Continental spokesman Dave Messing, contacted late Thursday by the Houston Post, wouldn't comment on the offer.

Robert Sakowitz, a member of Continental's board of directors, said he had not been informed about an offer from Brener. But he said it was logical the Breners would want to link up with the U.S. carrier operating the most flights to Mexico.