Nick Buckles, Chief Executive Officer
Well against the backdrop of significant economic pressure continuing through a lot of the organisation, the second year really of pretty tough trading. We did remarkably well to increase our earnings by 7%. Organic growth still stayed positive around 2% and if you look at our performance now over the last 6 years since the merge, including the recessionary years, on average we've grown EPS 15%, dividends 17% and now we're coming out of that slight trough. We've got good expectations. So the last 18 months, maybe 2 years we became much more inwardly focused on cost reduction, making sure we're very efficient in everything we do; both operational efficiencies and overhead efficiencies. We clearly reduced the amount of acquisitions we were spending. We spent around 200m a year on average through to 2008 and slowed that down to only 60m in the last year.
So they're the 2 biggest changes and that really was a change of emphasis to make sure we were lean and mean, as we come out of this difficult recession. Continuing to grow organically and growing EPS 7% - they were the outcome of a real lot of hard work throughout the group.
There are other highlights to mention. We've put a new regional management structure in place. I've now got 4 regional CEO's and a CEO for Cash Solutions. That was quite a material change throughout the organization. That's gone very well. So I'm always very optimistic. But I think the proof of the pudding is that we've been through our business plan process. We do it every 2 years with every business and I've had presentations from the whole group in the last month or 2 and there's definitely a renewed optimism around customer spending. About the growth of the business. So we certainly feel by the second half of 2011, you'll start to see an exhilaration. There definitely is more optimism out there in the field.
We believe with our historical performance, and even during the recession, we can continue to grow organically by at least 2% above nominal GDP across all our businesses. Now clearly that's moved around with RPI in the last couple of years, but we still believe we're growing 2% at least, ahead of that. So you should start to see as the economy improves world-wide some significant ‘step-up' in that growth. As I say, we expect to be at least 2% ahead of nominal GDP growth.
We'll be ‘stepping up' acquisitions. We only spent 60m last year and prior to the recession, we were probably averaging about 200m a year and we expect to actually push that even harder over the next 12 months. Particularly in developing markets.
They're the 2 main targets we've set ourselves and of course continued EPS growth, which again if economies improve, we averaged 15% EPS growth over the last 6 years. It's slowed down in the last couple of years, but I see no reason why that can't pick up to ‘double-digits' in the future again.
And of course, just recently we announced that we'd won the contract for the Olympic security in 2012, in London. Well actually in multiple locations throughout the UK. We're really excited about that and that clearly is the culmination of a lot of work to make sure we won that contract