The Armonk, N.Y.-based firm intends to spend $20 billion on acquisitions by 2015, although many of its largest deals in recent years, such as Cognos and Sterling Commerce, have focused on expanding its software empire.

Crucially, IBM acquisitions are typically accretive to earnings on both a GAAP and non-GAAP basis in the second year after the deal's completion. There has to be a question mark over whether this would be achievable with a division from the struggling Research In Motion.

In addition, IBM already offers enterprise email security within its Lotus Notes offering.

Neither IBM nor RIM would provide comment on this story, with both companies saying they don't comment on rumors or speculation.

RIM is in the throes of a major review of its business. "The strategic review is still ongoing and no decisions have yet been made," a RIM spokesman said.

Shares of RIM, which have tumbled more than 43% this year, rose 5% to $8.19 in Friday trading. IBM's shares dipped 0.3% to $197.82.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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