From its humble beginnings, PPG has endured, grown, evolved and transformed time and again. We’ve led technological change and have become a global leader through the strength of our products, manufacturing capabilities, sustainability, innovation, community engagement and a dedicated, world-class workforce. Today, our 47,000 employees around the world are focused on strengthening our position as a world-leading paint, coatings and specialty materials company. Every day, we strive to achieve our purpose: WE PROTECT AND BEAUTIFY THE WORLD™.
In 2018, we delivered growth in adjusted earnings per diluted share despite significant and persistent raw material and logistics cost inflation. In addition to achieving higher pricing, we aggressively managed our cost structure, delivering about $80 million of full-year cost savings, reaching the top-end of our target.
We continued to strengthen our business portfolio, which is now entirely focused on innovative paints, coatings and specialty materials. In 2018, we completed four acquisitions:
- PAINTZEN™, a technology platform that facilitates residential painting transactions;
- ProCoatings, a leading architectural paint and coatings wholesaler located in The Netherlands;
- HODIJ™ Coatings, a leading distributor of professional paint brands based in The Netherlands; and
- SEM™, a U.S.-based manufacturer of specialized automotive refinish products.
In addition, we announced the acquisition of WHITFORD®, a global manufacturer that specializes in low-friction and nonstick coatings for industrial applications and consumer products, and HEMMELRATH™, a global automotive coatings manufacturer based in Germany. These acquisitions are expected to be finalized in the first half of 2019, subject to customary closing conditions.
Our cash flow from operations remained strong in 2018, totaling about $1.5 billion for the year. We also continued our commitment to return cash to shareholders, with $2.2 billion returned in 2018 through share repurchases and dividends. We are proud of our history of having paid uninterrupted annual dividends since 1899. We have also raised our annual dividend payout for 47 consecutive years, including a 7 percent per-share increase that was paid in September 2018.
We remain committed to using our robust operations, widespread footprint and strong balance sheet to drive shareholder value through acquisitions and shareholder returns. We continue to view our current leverage level as a strategic advantage that allows us to be financially flexible and opportunistic.
As we look ahead, we remain confident that we are well positioned, strategically and financially. We continue to benefit from our geographic reach; robust growth strategy; excellent product portfolio, innovation and advanced customer technologies; transformational leadership; and enduring commitments to sustainability, ethics and community engagement.