I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude for the continuing trust and support of our shareholders, customers, partners and employees. Together we are transforming the way food is processed.
Marel is a global leader in a dynamic growth industry with over EUR 1 billion in revenues and an EBIT margin of 15%. Our team of 5,400 dedicated members, located in more than 30 countries, serves poultry, meat and fish processors that have operations in more than 100 countries. Our core values are Unity, Innovation and Excellence. Our vision is of a world where quality food is produced sustainably and affordably.
In transforming the way food is processed we have also been growing and advancing Marel as a company. We are proud of our 2017 results with revenues of EUR 1,038 million and operational profits of 15.2%. Revenues are up by 6% year-on-year and we have now been operating at EBIT level of around 15% for eight consecutive quarters. With an innovative portfolio and continued good partnerships with our customers we had a record order intake of EUR 1,144 million in 2017, up 13% over last year.
The strong cash flow from our operations enables us to invest in a stronger infrastructure to prepare for the future.
In the past two years we have also acquired two companies, MPS and Sulmaq, at a cost of over EUR 400 million without requesting any additional equity contribution from investors. We have continued to invest around 6% of revenues in innovation and have purchased our own shares and paid dividends in line with our long-term strategy. The financial position is strong at year-end with around two times net debt to EBITDA.
We are entering 2018 with a strong order book equaling to 45% of trailing twelve-month revenues.
In our everyday work we are guided by our clear vision and set of values. Our playing field has been gradually expanding and our business operations continuously improved, reflecting our core value of Excellence.
Our playing field has expanded from its original focus solely on yield and throughput in the Icelandic fish sector to become the global leader of today, serving poultry, meat and fish processors from post-farm gate to dispatch of final products. The emphasis is on increased value, quality, safety and sustainability of production, in addition to high yield and throughput. Innovative solutions that have recently been introduced also focus on taking animal welfare to new standards.
The Sulmaq acquisition closed successfully in August 2017 and I would like to restate my welcome to the Sulmaq team. Most of our acquisitions have been focused on closing application gaps in our full-line offering, in particular Scanvaegt, Stork and most recently MPS in 2016. A key driver behind the Sulmaq acquisition was to gain foothold in the rapidly growing markets of South and Central America and get access to the talent pool in those markets. Today the US and Canada, with 360 million inhabitants, account for around 30% of our revenues while Latin America, including Mexico with 640 million inhabitants, accounts for around 8% of our revenues. We are already well established in the poultry and fish industries and will continue to strengthen our position in the meat market.
Our customers range from small food processors to global leaders in the field. Our customer base is well diversified with no single customer accounting for more than 4% of annual revenues. Our revenues are well balanced geographically, consisting of a healthy mix of greenfield projects, modernization and extension projects with steady recurring revenues coming from our maintenance business.
We have prioritized investments and strengthened processes to be better able to deliver complex solutions to customers with the right quality at the right time. As evidence of our commitment to return value to our shareholders, earnings per share increased by 29% year-on-year.
Indeed, some 60 million people are becoming new active consumers every year due to rapid urbanization and improved economic prospects. Consumers are demanding quality food at affordable prices. In developing as well as developed markets, consumers seek to increase their consumption of proteins and vegetables at the cost of simple sugars and grains. Marel is positioned at the center point of these prevailing trends.
Marel is also situated at a crucial point in the value chain when it comes to data collection. Connectivity of our processing equipment has been a key element in Marel innovation from the very beginning, helping our helping customers connect the dots.
By collecting and storing equipment information, Innova’s advanced analytics software can translate data into action, thereby enabling new services and new experiences for our customers.
Innova enables processors to maximize yield and throughput and ensure food safety, with traceability built into every step of the process. Our passion for innovation is driving new integrated technologies and improving resource efficiency. To that end, Marel’s software is a key element in harnessing the potential of digitalization and the Internet of Things.
Marel shares were initially listed on the Icelandic Stock Exchange in 1992. In the 25 years since listing, annual compounded growth has been over 20% and our earnings quality is strong. The outlook is promising and in 2017 we introduced an ambitious growth plan for the next ten years with a target of 12% average annual growth. Organic growth is driven by innovation and market penetration which is complimented by strategic partnerships. We have a compelling equity story.
Marel is a global leader in providing advanced solutions and services for the poultry, meat and fish industries. It is energizing to work with all of Marel’s talented and dedicated employees and on behalf of the team I would like to thank our customers for their partnership contribution that is a cornerstone of our success. Together, we are advancing food processing.
We are firmly committed to delivering increased value to our society, customers and shareholders by enhancing safe and sustainable food processing. That is our passion.
Arni Oddur Thordarson,
Chief Executive Officer