A bidder has offered to pay $456,789 for a steak lunch with billionaire investor Warren Buffett, in a charity auction expected to be completed Friday night on eBay Inc's website.

The top bid as of noon EDT in the 10th annual fundraiser remains well short of last year's record $2.11 million paid by Hong Kong-based investor Zhao Danyang. The starting price was $25,000, and the auction ends at 10 p.m. EDT Friday.

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.

Observers had speculated that the global recession might keep this year's winning bid below last year's record. Bids typically soar in the last few hours of the auction, as bidders who did not want to push the price up early step in.

If the $456,789 bid were to hold up, it would be the fourth-most ever paid for the lunch. Winning bidders agreed to pay $650,100 in 2007 and $620,100 in 2006.

Buffett, 78, built his fortune through Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc, an insurance and investment company that has close to 80 businesses and tens of billions of dollars of investments.

The auctions began in 2000 after Buffett was introduced to Glide by his first wife, Susie, who died in 2004.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)