Japan's Ricoh is close to a deal to acquire IBM's digital-business printer operations, according to sources at the companies.

Final negotiations are underway and a deal is expected to be reached shortly, with an announcement before the US stock market opens on Thursday morning, a source at one of the companies said.

Ricoh is one of Japan's largest office automation equipment makers and is known worldwide for its printers, fax machines and copiers. In the six months from April to September sales of printers and office equipment, which make up the lion's share of Ricoh's business, jumped 7.3% on the same period a year earlier to ¥743.6 billion (£3.13bn), thanks to the introduction of new products.

A report in the Thursday morning edition of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun business newspaper put the size of the acquisition at about $700 million (£356m).