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Gurinder Chadha, Meera Syal in UK rich list

Shyam Bhatia in London | March 12, 2003 15:43 IST

An ethnic weekly in the United Kingdom says filmmakers Gurinder Chadha and Meera Syal, who hit the headlines with their unique and successful parodies of Asian life, are now among the 300 wealthiest south Asians in the country.

With a net worth of �4 million each, Chadha, director of Bend It Like Beckham and Syal, whose credits include Bombay Dreams, Anita & Me and The Kumars at No 42, are among the 71 new millionaires in the UK this year, according to the Asian Xpress, which chronicles the richest south Asians in the country.

According to the list, which will be published next month, the combined wealth of 300 south Asian millionaires is �8.9 billion, down �600 million from the last year.

On the first spot for the third consecutive year is Lakshmi Mittal, who owns the world's second largest steel company. He is estimated to be worth �1.31 billion, up �410 million from last year.

Shock exclusions of the year are the Hinduja brothers, who have been dogged by controversy both in the UK and India. They appear to have moved all their interests back to India and are no longer deemed to be part of the British Asian community.

The Jatania brothers, valued at �570 million, have taken over their position. They are said to have performed amazingly well over the past year, with a net gain of �22 million, due largely to the flotation of their joint venture company EPIC Brand Investments. Their cosmetics company, Lornamead, has built its success on the back of the supposed failure of traditional brands such as Harmony hairspray and Stergene fabric conditioner.

The 'rags to riches' stories featured in the Asian Xpress list are true indicators of the determination of this community. Most of the older generation came to the UK with literally no pockets from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Around 10 per cent of those featured in the list came as refugees escaping the Idi Amin regime in Uganda or were displaced following oppression from the Kenyan government in the 1970s.

Among the richest new entrants is Bradford-based entrepreneur Mumtaz Khan Akbar. Worth �25 million, he is at number 59. His company, Mumtaz Food Industries, is one of the region's great success stories and has played an important role in bolstering the local economy.

In terms of the great risers and fallers, Tom Singh and his company New Look have had a great year with an overall increase in wealth of �90 million. Dinesh Dhamija and his company e-bookers follows with a jump of 50 places and an increase in value by �80 million to �110 million.

This gain is largely due to the consistent and strong performance of e-bookers' shares on the London Stock Exchange.

The biggest loser this year is Lord Swarj Paul, whose company Caparo Industries lost �175 million.

The increasing influence of women in the Asian business community is evident, with 21 being featured in the list.

Five of them appear in their own right and the remaining are with their partners or members of their family. Varsha Engineer and her husband lead the couples at number 10 with a valuation of �111 million.

Meena Pathak and Perween Warsi, the universally acknowledged 'curry queens', have both suffered fairly hefty losses but maintain their positions at number 59. They are valued at �25 million each.

Forty-seven of those in the list are under 40 and control �1.33 billion. The youngest is Ameet Kotecha, 29, who enters the list for the first time. This busy young man, who is worth �5 million, divides his time between the family's wholesale beer business in Kent and his company Management Control.

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