Zameer Mohammed Choudrey, Baron Choudrey CBE SI Pk (Urdu: ضمیر چوہدری; born March 1958) is a British billionaire businessman, and the chief executive of Bestway, the UK's thirteenth-largest privately owned UK business and ninth-largest family-owned business with a turnover in excess of £3.4 billion and founded by his uncle, Sir Anwar Pervez.
According to the Sunday Times Rich List UK, in 2019 his net worth is £1.755 billion (US$2.28 billion); which makes him the second-richest Pakistani in the UK.
He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to the wholesale industry and charity.
On 23 March 2018, the President of Pakistan awarded him Sitara-i-Imtiaz (Star of Excellence) SI Pk, in recognition of his contributions to advancing Pakistan through his services and the wide array of philanthropic work.
On 10 September 2019, he was nominated for a life peerage in ex-prime minister Theresa May’s resignation honours list. He was created Baron Choudrey, of Hampstead in the London Borough of Barnet, on 9 October 2019. He formally joined the House of Lords on 5 November 2019.
He was born in March 1958. Hailing from a remote village of Thathi in Gujar Khan, Pakistan, he moved to UK at the age of 12 with his family to join his father; who is a Second World Veteran having served the British Army. During this time, his uncle, Sir Anwar set up his own business and he would regularly assist him in the running of his business in between his studies. He graduated from the University of Kent at Canterbury in 1981.
He qualified as an accountant in 1984 with Simmons, Cohen, Fine and Partners (now Simmons Gainsford LLP) and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. He is a member of the Institute of Directors in London. In November 2014 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Kent.
He joined Bestway Group in 1984 as Financial Controller; in this role he designed and implemented systems and controls within the business with emphasis on husbandry of stocks and cash management. He played a key role in the expansion of the Group's wholesale business through the acquisition of Bashin Cash & Carry in 1984; Crown Crest Limited in 1987 and Link Cash & Carry in 1988.
In 1990, Choudrey was appointed the finance director of Bestway Group. During the mid 1990s he was assigned the task of business diversification by the board of directors and in 1995 he was appointed chief executive of Bestway Cement.
In October 2002 having led the acquisition of United Bank Limited (UBL); he was appointed to the board of UBL. Since then he has been a director of UBL Insurers.
In July 2004 he was promoted to the position of chief executive of Bestway Group.
In July 2014 under his leadership, Bestway Group acquired the Co-op's pharmacy business for £620 million or US$1.06 billion. Co-op pharmacy is the UK's third-largest independent pharmacy business and the largest in Wales.
At the time of the acquisition, pharmacy business was expected to increase the group's annual turnover to over £3.0 billion and the group's global workforce would increase to 33,600 people, with over 11,900 people employed in the UK.
Wholesale cash and carry
The Group's wholesale operations are the 2nd largest in the UK. It trades from 62 warehouses. It is a supply partner to over 70,000 independent retailers and 40,000 catering and foodservice operators. As a business, Bestway Wholesale business services three main customer groups; independent retail (including Club and Symbol), Foodservice and specialist Pet Operators. Independent retail is serviced by our extensive depot network and delivered operation to stores. In addition to supplying thousands of convenience stores and small shops, Bestway Wholesale also operates the award-winning Best-one symbol group which has 1,400 members throughout the country. Over 3,500 independents have chosen our depot-run promotional club, Xtra Local, as their retail club of choice.
In January 2005 Choudrey led the acquisition of Batleys plc for £100 million;. The acquisition of Batleys catapulted Bestway to new heights of success. An OFT report published soon after the acquisition said the merged entity is the fourth largest national grocery wholesaler in the UK, with a modest 9.9% share of supply in grocery wholesaling as a whole and 15.9% share of supply in cash & carry alone.
Batleys contributed towards expanding the Group's market share by 50%. In addition to organic growth over the years, the Group acquired Bellevue Cash & Carry's two warehouses in Edinburgh and Stirling in June 2010. In November 2010 the Group went on to acquire the Martex Group of three cash & carry warehouses and its foodservice operation from C J Lang.
In February 2014, Bestway was awarded the Investors in People Bronze award for demonstrating a degree of excellence in the way they develop and support their staff. The Bronze award is achieved by just 5% of Investors in People recognised organisations in the UK. The Investors in People Standard is awarded to well-run organisations, which demonstrate good management practice with a high emphasis on best practice people management and development.
In April 2014, the Group acquired Glasgow-based wholesaler Sher Brothers and merged Sher Brothers into the Batleys brand.
In August 2015, he shortlisted for the Grocer Cup.
In April 2018, the company purchased the assets and brands of Conviviality Retail from administrators PwC for £7.25m. PwC partner Matthew Callaghan said: ‘This deal safeguards the jobs of more than 2,000 employees, ensures franchisees have the ability to continue to trade and creates some much-needed stability for business customers and the sector in general. Conviviality Retail, which includes Bargain Booze, Select Convenience and Wine Rack, has 769 stores in the UK.
In June 2018, the company acquired two Blakemore Wholesale's warehouses in Cardiff and Walsall.
In 1995, he initiated the Group's business diversification strategy and was appointed Chief Executive of Bestway Cement.
The Group built its first cement plant in Hattar, in the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province of Pakistan in 1995. This was an initial investment of US$120 million and led to the creation of 800 jobs. Civil works started in January 1996 and the Kiln was fired in April 1998. In 2002 the plant's capacity was further enhanced to 1.3 million TPA at a cost of US$20 million.
Since June 2003 the company continues to be the largest exporter of cement to Afghanistan and has won national export awards.
In February 2004 the company set up its second plant with a 1.8 million TPA capacity in Chakwal in the Province of Punjab, Pakistan with a total investment of US$140 million and led to the creation of 900 jobs.
In September 2005 he spearheaded the Group's US$70 million acquisition of its third cement plant Mustehkam Cement as part of the Government's Privatisation Programme. In the post-acquisition period the Group has invested in excess of US$50 million to increase Mustehkam's cement manufacturing capacity to 1.1 million TPA. In the post-acquisition period Bestway's investment has contributed in creating 800 new jobs.
In October 2007 the company was granted an export license by the Bureau of Indian Standards. In less than two years the Cement became the largest exporter of Pakistani cement to India.
Over the years similar export licenses have been granted for Dubai; South Africa; Sri Lanka and Turkey.
In June 2008 the Group's fourth cement plant with a 1.8 million TPA capacity went into commercial production adjacent to the existing site in Chakwal at a cost of US$180 million and 500 new jobs were added.
Bestway has also set up a 15 MW Waste Heat Recovery Power Plant (WHRPP) at its Chakwal plant site, the plant became operational in September 2009. The plant gained CDM (Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol) approval in August 2010. Bestway is the first company in the cement industry in Pakistan to have achieved this landmark.
In November 2013 Mustehkam Cement was merged into Bestway Cement.
In July 2014 the company acquired Lafarge's 75.86% stake in Lafarge Pakistan Cement Ltd for an enterprise value of US$329 million (€244 million). Lafarge Pakistan Cement Ltd operates an integrated cement plant in the north of Pakistan, close to Islamabad. The company also acquired another 12.07% shares through a public offer, taking its shareholding in Lafarge Pakistan to 87.93%.
Today, the company's cement operations have gone on to become one of the largest in Pakistan with five modern state of the art cement plants, representing more than 8.0 million tons or 18% of the country's cement manufacturing capacity and a workforce of over 4,000 people.
Since October 2014 the company's environment-friendly policies have been regularly recognised by the National Forum for Environmental and Health and the company has own numerous Environmental Excellence Awards.
In April 2015, he announced plans to invest US$30 million in Pakcem (formerly Lafarge Pakistan) plant. As part of the investment programme, Bestway would establish an environmentally friendly WHRP Plant at Pakcem.
In July 2015, the company inaugurated two WHRP Plants (6 MW and 7.5 MW) at its Hattar and Farooqia plants in KPK Province of Pakistan. Speaking on the occasion, he said that these power plants will not only reduce the company's reliance on national grid but also help in alleviating the country's power crisis to a certain extent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 27,000 CMDs.
In March 2017 the company announced plans to set up its third cement plant in Haripur KPK Province. The brownfield plant will have a daily production capacity of 6,000 tons of clinker per day.
In May 2018 the company completed the brownfield expansion project in a record time of 14 months.
In July 2018 as per International Cement Review the company started to dispatch cement from Farooqia Line II and the company's sale of clinker accounted for more than 62 per cent of clinker sales by the industry as a whole.
Today, all four of its plants are utilising waste heat recovery power, they are ahead of their competition in the industry.
In October 2002 he led and managed the Group's acquisition of United Bank Limited (UBL) which is today Pakistan's 2nd largest private bank. He serves as a Director on the Board of UBL and also chairs the Board Risk and Compliance Committee. He is also a director of UBL Insurers.
In August 2003, UBL launched Pakistan's first derivative money market product. In 2005, the bank acquired the status of Authorised Derivative Dealer – the only domestic bank to achieve this status. It is also the first institution from Pakistan & third in South Asia to be accredited with Primary Membership of International Swaps & Derivatives Association.
In June 2007 the Global Depository Receipts of UBL was listed on the London Stock Exchange. The offering targeted institutional investors and raised in excess of US$650 million. UBL is the only Pakistani bank and one of the only two Pakistani companies that are listed on the London Stock Exchange.
In April 2010, UBL launched UBL Omni, an in-house developed project designed to provide banking facilities to the unbanked population of Pakistan. As of June 2014, UBL Omni had a customer base in excess of 6.8 million, with over 1.5 million active cards in issue and 5 million monthly transactions valued at over US$253 million. Through the success of UBL Omni 1.55 million previously unbanked individuals have opened mobile bank accounts with UBL in Pakistan. Today, Omni Dukaan network has grown to 42,100 agents in Pakistan.
In January 2011 Choudrey played an instrumental role in the Group's decision to increase its shareholding in (UBL) to 51.07% by acquiring an additional 20% of the shares from the Abu Dhabi Group. This was a total investment of US$230.0 million in Pakistan's second-largest private commercial bank.
The Bank added 200 branches in 2011 and 2012, thus increasing its domestic network to over 1,300 online branches with 800 ATMs.
In June 2012, UBL led consortium acquired 67.4% stake in Khushhali Bank, which is the largest micro-finance institution in Pakistan. In the post-acquisition period the bank's loan portfolio has increased by 77.80% from US$46.82 million in June 2012 to US$83.24 million in December 2013. Khushhali Bank's deposit base has grown by 194.76% from US$23.00 million in June 2012 to US$67.80 million in December 2013.
In December 2013, the Group increased its shareholding in UBL to 61.37% by acquiring an additional 10.3% of the shares from the Abu Dhabi Group. Through an investment of over $120 million, the Group acquired the entire shareholding of its former joint venture partner the Abu Dhabi Group.
In June 2014, the Government of Pakistan sold its remaining 20% stake in UBL for US$387 million. This was Pakistan's first transaction in the global equity market in almost eight years.
United Bank Limited has over 1,390 branches across Pakistan, 19 branches overseas, and a customer base exceeding 4 million. The bank has an asset base in excess of $15 billion, a global workforce of almost 13,000 people and a diversified client base covering a broad spectrum of segments and industries across the globe. UBL provides services in wholesale and retail banking through its network of branches and presence across four continents including the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, UK, Switzerland, China, and Pakistan.
As part of the Group's diversification strategy, in July 2014 the Group acquired the Co-op's pharmacy business for £620 million. Co-op pharmacy is the UK's third-largest independent pharmacy business and the largest in Wales with 795 stores nationwide.
At time of the acquisition Zameer Choudrey Bestway Group Chief Executive, said: "The Co-operative Pharmacy is a strong, competitive business operating in a sector where demographic trends show an increasing demand for healthcare services among the wider community. We see great potential to grow the business organically and through future acquisitions".
In February 2015, the Group re-branded the Co-op Pharmacy Business to Well Pharmacy. He had pledged to give Well strong support by committing to invest £200m over the next five years to help develop and grow the business and to make sure Well continues to serve its customers and local communities to the high standard the business has always delivered.
In October 2015, the Chancellor of the Exchequer performed a formal opening of the Well Pharmacy head office in Manchester.
He places a strong emphasis on the provision of health and education facilities to the underprivileged. Under his leadership, the Group has undertaken a great deal of work in the UK and Pakistan to facilitate local communities.
In 1987, he was a founding Trustee of Bestway Foundation – a charitable trust of the Bestway Group that works exclusively in the health and education sectors.
A long-standing supporter and donor to the UK Conservative Party, and in August 2013 was appointed the Co-Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Pakistan.
He made his maiden speech in the House of Lords on the 29th of January 2020; when he participated in the House of Lords debate on the Sutton Trust's Mobility Manifesto, published in November 2019, and the recommendations of the Social Mobility Commission's 2019 State of the Nation report.