A hospital in Memphis has confirmed that Apple's CEO Steve Jobs has had a liver transplant.

The news, which hasn't yet officially been confirmed by Apple on its PR section of its website, ends the speculation that first emerged at the weekend by the Wall Street Journal in New York.

According to an official press release from the CEO's doctor, a Dr James D Eason, released with the patient's permission, the big cheese at Apple "received a liver transplant at Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in partnership with the University of Tennessee in Memphis".

The statement goes on to say: "He received a liver transplant because he was the patient with the highest MELD score (Model for End-Stage Liver Disease) of his blood type and, therefore, the sickest patient on the waiting list at the time a donor organ became available".

Finally Eason concludes that "Mr. Jobs is now recovering well and has an excellent prognosis".

The news is likely to be greeted by mixed reactions from analysts and shareholders with some already annoyed that the information about the transplant was kept from them, even though Apple isn't legally obligated to inform shareholders.

Steve Jobs, is rumoured to have returned to work this week following a self-imposed leave of absence, kicking off his return with a quote in an Apple press release over the sales figures of the new Apple iPhone 3GS.

“Customers are voting and the iPhone is winning”, said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “With over 50,000 applications available from Apple’s revolutionary App Store, iPhone momentum is stronger than ever”.

However some believe that the news, which Apple has carefully broken, spells the end of Jobs' reign at the company as CEO with Jobs taking on a chairman or more "senior architect" role similar to Bill Gates at Microsoft before he finally stepped down from the company last year.