In what could be the IT/Entertainment story of the year, Apple Computers is reportedly in talks to acquire the world's largest record company Universal Music in a $6bn (£3.8bn) deal, the LA Times has reported.

Citing unspecified "sources," the LA Times report explains that Vivendi's Universal Music division reaps about $6bn (£3.8bn) annually in sales. Its roster includes well-known Mac user Bryan Adams and Irish-born pop superstars U2, which extends across multiple genres, including Limp Bizkit, Beck, Blink-182, No Doubt, Sheryl Crow and Elton John.

Universal Music's back catalogue offers tunes from Abba, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Eric Clapton, Patsy Cline, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Nirvana and The Who. The company also owns several other record labels, including: MCA Records, Motown Records, Geffen, Interscope Records, Island-Def Jam Music Group, Polydor Records and the Verve Music Group.

Apple chief executive officer (CEO) Steve Jobs has reportedly been in discussion with Vivendi for "several months," the report claims. It also says accountants from financial firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter are looking at Universal Music's accounts on Apple's behalf. If an offer is made, it is likely to be before Vivendi's 29 April board meeting.

According to the report, the French media giant Vivendi is trying to reduce debt - seeking to raise $7bn(£4.4bn) this year by selling assets that would include all or some of its Universal film, television, theme-park and music units.

"There has been a lot of speculation surrounding Vivendi and its major music companies. Vivendi is in huge debt," a music business insider said.

"A possible deal to acquire Vivendi assets is in play," the source confirmed. The source also confirmed that analysts have been downgrading the values of the Big Five music companies "every month for months."

The move comes as the music business struggles to create an acceptable business model to offer honest consumers a paid service that competes with illegal music download services and as Apple applies the finishing touches to its own forthcoming digital music download system for Mac users.