Danish Tax Dispute Weighs on Tempur Sealy

The mattress maker could incur 'a level of double taxation,' said its CFO.
Matthew HellerFebruary 4, 2016

Tempur Sealy swung to a loss in the fourth quarter as a tax dispute with Denmark that may take years to resolve continued to weigh on the world’s largest mattress maker.

The net loss of $11.3 million, or 18 cents a share, reflected in part a balance sheet charge related to the dispute over Tempur Sealy’s tax liability in Denmark. In the year-ago period, the company reported a profit of $46.6 million, or 75 cents a share.

“As a result of certain events that occurred during the fourth quarter of 2015, the company recorded a change in estimate of its uncertain tax position regarding the previously disclosed Danish tax matter of approximately $60.7 million,” Tempur Sealy said Thursday in a news release. “The company will continue discussions with both U.S. and Danish tax authorities in an attempt to resolve this matter.”

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CFO Barry A. Hytinen said in an earnings call with analysts that the matter could take years to resolve.

“As we have been disclosing since 2008, we’ve had a pending income tax assessment from the Danish tax authority related to a dispute over the royalty rate that the Tempur United States company pays our Danish subsidiary in connection with the use of intellectual property to produce our Tempur material,” he explained.

“Absent an agreement between Denmark and the U.S., the company will incur a level of double taxation,” Hytinen warned.

Tempur Sealy’s sales rose 2.9% to $767.3 million in the fourth quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters anticipated per-share earnings of 99 cents on revenue of $785 million.

The mattress maker had “a troubled year,” the Lexington Herald Leader noted, with activist investor H Partners Management campaigning successfully to oust three directors, including former CEO Mark Sarvary.

According to Hytinen, Tempur Sealy expects its effective tax rate in 2016 to be about 30.5%. He noted that unlike the United States, Denmark has no courts that focus on tax matters, adding to the unpredictability of pursuing a resolution through litigation.

“While discussions are in the early stages, the company believes that the possibility of avoiding litigation is promising,” he said.

In trading Thursday, Tempur Sealy stock was down 8%, at $55.56.

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