LONDON (Reuters) - Champions League winner Chelsea Football Club will almost certainly fail in its bid to move its stadium to London landmark Battersea Power Station, a source close to the sale process told Reuters.
About 15 bidders including Chelsea, which is owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, submitted plans earlier this month to buy the protected 15-hectare site on the south bank of the River Thames, the subject of repeated failed redevelopment attempts in the three decades since it shut.
Malaysian real estate company SP Setia and veteran British developer Godfrey Bradman are leading the chase to buy the site with one other bidder also in the frame, the source said, describing the Chelsea bid as "way off the pace".
A final decision could come as early as this week, the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
A report in UK trade magazine Property Week suggested Bradman's bid may in difficulty after funding from its backers, the reclusive billionaires David and Simon Reuben, had been withdrawn.
Bradman was behind the Broadgate Circle development in London's main financial district in the 1980s.
A sale to SP Setia would mark its first foray into Europe and add to its residential schemes in Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.
Chelsea was not immediately available for comment. SP Setia and a spokeswoman for selling agent Knight Frank declined to comment. Bradman could not immediately be reached for comment.
The crumbling riverside edifice, which is Europe's largest brick structure, and its quartet of art-deco white chimneys have been a recognisable silhouette on the London skyline for 80 years.
The site came on to the market after a 5.5 billion pound plan by Irish developer Treasury Holdings for homes, shops and offices collapsed in December and had a price tag of about 300 to 400 million pounds ($469-$625 million).
It was placed into administration by Lloyds Banking Group and Ireland's National Asset Management Agency, or "bad bank", which are reportedly owed about 400 million pounds between them.
Chelsea said earlier this month the power station had "the potential to become one of the most iconic football stadiums in the world".
The football club has looked for alternative London homes after running into difficulties extending its 42,000 capacity Stamford Bridge stadium and recently failing in an attempt to move to Earls Court in west London.
The size of the ground puts the club at a financial disadvantage to rivals like Arsenal, whose stadium holds 60,000.
Abramovich has been unable to persuade a supporter-led group called Chelsea Pitch Owners to sell him the freehold of the stadium due to its fear the club will relocate and sell the site to property developers.
Battersea Power Station would be worth an extra 470 million pounds to a developer that could demolish the building and replace it with 1,200 apartments, according to calculations done for Reuters by property consultancy EC Harris.
The details of what Setia and Bradman are planning for the power station site are not known. ($1 = 0.6396 British pounds)