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Winning bid drops for lunch with Buffet

A BIDDER agreed to pay US$1.68 million for a steak lunch with billionaire investor Warren Buffett in a charity auction completed on Friday night, according to eBay Inc's Website, where the bidding took place.

The winning bid in the 10th annual fund-raiser fell short of last year's record US$2.11 million, paid by Hong Kong-based investor Zhao Danyang. The starting price was US$25,000.

The identity of the winning bidder could not immediately be determined.

As in recent years, the winner and up to seven friends may dine with the world's second-richest person at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in New York.

Zhao, who runs the Pureheart China Growth Investment Fund, had his lunch with Buffett on Wednesday.

The auction benefits the Glide Foundation, a nonprofit in San Francisco's Tenderloin district that offers housing, job training, health and child care, and meals for the poor.

Bidding activity accelerated toward the end of the auction, much as in past years, with the top bid rising from US$810,000 in the last 2 hours.

Observers said the recession would keep the winning bid below last year's record.

The winning bid is the second highest ever. Winning bidders agreed to pay US$650,100 in 2007 and US$620,100 in 2006.

The nine previous auctions had raised more than US$4.2 million for Glide. Hedge fund manager David Einhorn, who bid US$250,100 in 2003, is another previous winner.

Buffett, 78, built his fortune through Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc, an insurance and investment company.


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