Hong Kong's wealthiest have lost their status as buyers of the world's most expensive truffles in a further sign that the economic downturn is curbing their spending habits. Nine of Hong Kong's elite flew to Tokyo for the 10th Annual World Alba White Truffle Auction, which took place at the Ritz-Carlton there on Sunday night. But despite paying the equivalent of HK$2,300 a head to enjoy a dinner and take part in the auction, they failed to clinch the winning bid for the largest truffle, as they had done in the three previous auctions. A guest who was sitting close to the Hong Kong table said the group was outbid by Japanese businessman Kazumasa Terada, who paid Euro24,000 (HK$237,000) for an 850 gram specimen from Italy's Piedmont region. Last year, a consortium of mainland property developers bid HK$1.4 million for a smaller, 750g truffle. This followed the then record sum of HK$1.25 million paid by billionaire Sir Gordon Wu Ying-sheung in 2006 for a fungus weighing about 1.5kg and the HK$1.07 million for a 1.2kg truffle paid by a group of Hong Kong investment bankers in 2005. In December, at the Tuscan Truffle Auction, casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun paid HK$2.5 million via satellite from his home turf of Macau for a white truffle weighing 1.5kg. The Alba White auction was moved to Tokyo from Hong Kong after the closure of the Ritz-Carlton early this year. As in previous years, Ritz-Carlton Italian chef Umberto Bombana will prepare a feast with the truffle for the winning bidder and guests. The auction raised the equivalent of HK$1.1 million, compared with HK$4.4 million last year. The money will go to various charities.