At the beginning of 2019, we established five actionable goals. Despite challenging and uneven global economic conditions, changing market dynamics, and an ever evolving geo-political environment, our team achieved a majority of the goals we set. We grew our earnings, achieved significant cost savings, completed a review of our portfolio and made strides to enhance our governance structure. Although we fell short of our sales goal, this continues to be a priority, and our global team is focused on achieving increased organic and inorganic growth.
In 2019, the company achieved $15.1 billion in net sales and generated adjusted earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $6.22, up about 5% versus the prior year. Excluding the impact of foreign currency translation, adjusted earnings per diluted share were $6.38, which is an increase of about 8% from the prior year and firmly within the earnings guidance provided in January 2019.
2019 Financial Highlights
Strategically, we continued to optimize our business portfolio, completing four acquisitions in 2019. These acquisitions, listed below, will further broaden the company’s geographic footprint and technology reach.
We continue to grow our resources across the world. In 2019, we announced investments in PPG’s Greenville, South Carolina, coatings services facility; distribution centers in Guadalajara, Mexico and Flower Mound, Texas; an application support center at the Seletar Aerospace Park in Singapore; and research and development facilities for automotive and aerospace in Cleveland, Ohio and Burbank, California.
PPG continued to perform well operationally, including achieving about $85 million in cost savings from previously communicated restructuring programs. We generated nearly $2.1 billion of cash flow from operations in 2019, an all-time record for any year. We continue to have excellent financial flexibility with cash and short-term investments of about $1.3 billion at year-end.
We also continued our legacy of returning cash to shareholders, with about $800 million returned in 2019 through share repurchases and dividends, including a per share dividend increase for the 48th consecutive year.
As we look ahead, we are optimistic that the global economy will grow modestly in 2020, despite continued geo-political and trade uncertainty. Due to changing market conditions, we will continue to aggressively manage all elements within our control. We will also continue to target earnings per share and cash flow growth, while strategically pursuing organic and inorganic growth opportunities.