Our Financial Position
As I reflect on our financial performance in 2019, I am pleased that we strongly delivered against our long-term value creation goals and capital allocation strategy, which remain unchanged.
We took decisive action in 2019, overcoming significant trade volatility and macroeconomic pressures to deliver very strong results. We drove strong price/mix and maintained a disciplined approach to cost takeout, resulting in strong EBIT margin expansion and all-time record earnings per share. Additionally, we delivered solid free cash flow through working capital improvements and capital spend efficiencies. Lastly, we significantly improved the strength of our balance sheet and continued to return cash to shareholders.
Funding the business
We invested over $1 billion in R&D and capital expenditures, fully funding our business operations and ensuring we continue to deliver great innovative products to our consumers. These investments enable us to deliver product leadership, while redefining what our products are and further strengthening our position as a leader in connected appliances and services. We continue to invest in and grow our brands globally. We are also investing in our digital consumer journey, leveraging technology to better understand our consumers’ pre-buy preferences, optimize our marketing investments and enhance our growing direct-to-consumer business. Finally, we are making investments in the digitization of our value chain, enabling advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence for productivity gains across our factories and distribution network. This includes gaining real-time supply chain visibility to drive lower working capital requirements and utilizing connectivity for remote diagnostics to reduce service visits. We are also executing on our “World Class Manufacturing” strategy to drive improvements through technology, robotics and complexity reduction. These investments ensure we continue to position Whirlpool Corporation as a global leader in connected products and services, delivering impactful innovation to our consumers every day.
We continue to maintain strong liquidity and financial flexibility, allowing us to remain agile as we face elevated levels of economic and trade volatility. This year we finished with approximately $3.8 billion in available credit facilities. Our year-end debt levels were significantly reduced as we repaid our $1 billion term loan after completing the sale of our Embraco compressor business, making significant progress toward our long-term debt leverage goal of approximately 2x gross debt-to-EBITDA. We are focused on maintaining an optimal capital structure with a strong investment-grade credit rating.
Returning cash to shareholders
In line with our balanced approach to capital allocation, we returned approximately $450 million to shareholders in 2019. We increased our quarterly dividend for the 7th consecutive year and repurchased approximately $150 million of common stock. Our commitment to delivering strong returns for our shareholders remains unchanged.
In closing, we are very pleased with our momentum exiting 2019 and our 2020 outlook is solid. We are focused on further strengthening our balance sheet and maintaining financial flexibility so we can react appropriately to changes in the global economic and trade landscape. We will continue to invest in our digital transformation journey, unlocking great products and services for our consumers and delivering strong value creation for our shareholders. It is these actions and investments that will propel us forward, ensuring we continue to earn trust and create demand for our products and brands across the globe.
James W. Peters
Executive Vice President
and Chief Financial Officer