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Sealy is a slumbering giant. It's one of the world's biggest makers of bedding products and a top US manufacturer, with nearly 20% wholesale market share. Sealy makes mattresses and traditional box springs under brands Sealy, Bassett, Stearns & Foster, and others, as well as specialty bedding under the Embody and Carrington Chase labels. It sells to – more... sleep shops, furniture and department stores, and warehouse clubs in North and South America and beyond through JVs and licensee partners. Sealy also licenses its name to makers of home furnishings. Publicly owned since 2006, Sealy is 46%-controlled by KKR & Co. for now. It's being acquired by competitor Tempur-Pedic.

KKR, which bought the bedmaker from Bain Capital in 2004, is looking to cash out of the company. In late 2012 Sealy agreed to be purchased by Kentucky-based Tempur-Pedic in a deal valued at $1.3 billion. Pairing the mattress makers creates a $2.7 billion bedding powerhouse with an international reach. Tempur-Pedic, with its two big brands, greatly expands its products portfolio by buying Sealy. As part of the transaction, each company will operate independently and retain its top management.

Sealy's operations are divided among the US, Canada, and Other International segments. The geographic structure is intended to keep the company competitive in its most significant markets as it pursues new opportunities. Amid the worsening global economy, Sealy in 2010 cut costs and refocused its resources by divesting its European manufacturing operations in France and Italy. It also put a halt to its operations in Brazil. However it keeps a foothold in these regions through several licensing partnerships.

Sealy's efforts are focused in the US and Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, and South America. Although the US generates more than three-quarters of the company's sales, the company also boasts more than a dozen independent licensees and joint ventures worldwide coupled with a global network of roughly 25 factories. Sealy's largest international market is Canada, representing about 15% of sales. The bedmaker is also committed to China; through its Sealy China joint venture, owned by Sealy and licensee Sealy Australia, the mattress maker opened a new 100,000-sq.- ft. manufacturing facility outside Shanghai in late 2010.

Sealy has posted declining sales and earnings since achieving a record high in 2007. In fiscal 2011 (ends November) the company managed to modestly narrow its 2010 loss to a deficit $9.9 million atop a splinter thin increase in revenues.  Results reflect in part increased demand in its US, Mexico, and South American business offset by a decline in Canada. In addition, the company incurred increased material and other costs due to inflation, along with higher expenses related to product launches.

While many consumers during 2011 delayed making big purchases, including mattresses, those who bought bedding products invested in the lower retail-priced basics. The company's sweet spot, where it generates 67% of domestic sales, comes from sales of mattresses priced at $750 and up. Nonetheless, industry forecasts for the specialty (non-innerspring) category, comprising latex foam and "memory foam" bedding, are promising. To capture this growth potential at the higher price range, Sealy strategically accelerated the launch the Next Generation Posturepedic and Stearns & Foster lines. It also rolled out Embody by Sealy, a premium specialty brand.

The bedding company concurrently is looking over its shoulder. Top rivals Simmons and Serta came together in 2010 under the same owner. Although Simmons and Serta operate separately and under different management teams, both mattress makers stand to benefit from the deep pockets of their shared investor/owner as they work to expand in the US. – less

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