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Bateman stuffs family stocking

Bateman stuffs family stocking

Christmas has come early for Ed Bateman's family. Fresh from raising earnings guidance on Friday, the boss of Primary Health Care and his wife Belinda have given the bulk of 17 million shares - or more than 3 per cent of the company he founded - to about 20 family members, including sons James and Henry and the grandkids.

The rest will go to a charitable trust focused on respite care.

In other words, the majority of shares, worth almost $87 million at their closing price on Monday, will end up as early stocking filler for the Bateman tribe.

Before his latest handout, Bateman's $400 million-plus was split mostly between shares and property, including horse studs and farms in central western and southern NSW. Not to forget a harbour-front shack in the Sydney suburb of Mosman that he bought for $13.5 million in late 2007, and has since spent about $1.8 million sprucing up.

Even at the office, it has been about keeping it in the family. Aside from their roles as directors, James Bateman is chief operating officer of Primary's pathology business while younger bro Henry is general manager of the medical centres division.

Investors can only wonder who will eventually replace Primary's 71-year-old patriarch.

Branson wager

Having settled his score with AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes, the question on plane-spotters' lips is what will be in store for Richard Branson if he loses his next bet?

The walking billboard has a wager with Virgin Australia's resident motorhead, John Borghetti (pictured with Branson), over whether the airline hits unspecified earnings targets next year.

Sir Dick was unwilling to divulge what was at stake when he was asked about the bet while he crossed the country for yet more publicity stunts last week.

It has left industry insiders to wonder what Borghetti would have been willing to bet with Virgin Australia's once-largest and loudest shareholders.

Top of the list would be having to answer a call from Etihad boss James Hogan when Branson's Virgin Group finally sells the rest of its stake in Virgin Australia to anyone but the Middle Eastern airline.

Or hosting a dinner party for Hogan and his counterpart at Singapore Airlines, Goh Choon Phong, to discuss whose airline wins the lion's share of Virgin passengers for code-share flights to Europe.

Then again, if Branson wins the bet, the thought of him forcing Borghetti to dress as a trolley dolly, or skinny dip at Bondi, is just too delicious to contemplate.

Amen to that

The prayers of the country's largest Anglican diocese appear to have been answered.

After a $160 million loss of faith during the global financial crisis, the church's Sydney diocese has continued to bolster its bottom line. The diocese's investment arm has dutifully informed the faithful - and the corporate overlord - that it served up a $10.7 million surplus last year, up from

$7.9 million in 2011.

Like secular investors, the church has once again been riding on the coat-tails of a suspected bull market. It is a far cry from the depths of financial Armageddon when the endowment fund managed by the Glebe Administration Board was banished to purgatory.

Apart from wholesale changes to its board in late 2009, the need to pursue a life of austerity resulted in belt-tightening for the diocese's flock of 60,000. Last year, the board slashed its offering for the main activities of the church to $3.6 million, down from $5.25 million in 2011. In his yearly sermon, the board's chief executive, Mark Payne, attributed the better fortunes to an "improved performance of the Australian and overseas sharemarkets".

The value of the fund's net assets rose by almost 7 per cent to $122 million last year. It will be manna from heaven for the board's heavy hitters, such as Goldman Sachs banking analyst Ben Koo and deputy Inspector-General of Taxation Andrew McLoughlin.

Amen - to bull markets.

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