In 2019, profit from continuing operations decreased by €55 million to €72 million (2018: €127 million). Lower operating income of €66 million was only partly offset by €8 million lower net financial expenses and €3 million lower income taxes.
The decrease in net financial expenses mainly relates to lower interest on long-term borrowings of €9 million. This decrease is explained by the repayment of a bond in August 2018, which in 2019 was replaced by a new bond with a substantially lower interest rate.
Income taxes amounted to €31 million in 2019 (2018: €34 million). The effective tax rate was 30.1% in 2019 (2018: 21.1%), which is higher than the statutory income tax rate of 25% in the Netherlands, mainly influenced by the impact of non- or partly deductible costs and updated deferred tax positions.
In 2019, the loss from discontinued operations was €26 million lower than compared to 2018. This improvement is partly explained by a lower fair value impairment of €48 million in 2019 (2018: €59 million), reflecting the outcome of our assessment of fair value compared to the book value of the assets and liabilities held for sale. The other part of the improvement is explained by a €15 million lower net loss from regular business activities. The performance of our discontinued operations is further explained in note 3.9 to the consolidated financial statements.
Year ended at 31 December
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Equity holders of the parent
Earnings per share (in € cents)1
Earnings from continuing operations per share (in € cents)1
Earnings from discontinued operations per share (in € cents)1
In 2019, net cash from operating and investing activities was €104 million (2018: €(19) million). The increase of €123 million is the sum of €181 million higher net cash from operating activities, partly offset by €58 million higher net cash used in investing activities.
The increase in net cash from operating activities of €181 million is explained by €164 million higher cash generated from operations, €12 million lower interest paid and €5 million lower income taxes paid. Cash generated from operations increased mainly due to a favourable working capital development of €87 million, lower cash out from provisions and, following the implementation of IFRS 16, the recording of lease payments as of 1 January 2019 as financing cash flows (2019: €62 million).
The increase in net cash used in investing activities of €58 million is mainly explained by the net cash used for acquisitions of €65 million in 2019 (2018: €0 million), almost fully related to the acquisition of Sandd (€64 million).
In 2019, net cash from financing activities of €99 million (2018: net cash used of €285 million) resulted from the proceeds of a new bond of €296 million (2018: €3 million), repayments of borrowings of €64 million (2018: €223 million), (interim) dividend payments of €71 million (2018: €63 million) and lease payments of €62 million (2018: €2 million).
Year ended at 31 December
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Repayments of leases
Net cash (used in)/from financing activities
Total change in cash from continuing operations
As of 2020, management will analyse and report on the Group 's profitability performance applying the key performance indicators normalised EBIT and free cash flow (as replacements of UCOI and net cash from operating and investing activities). Free cash flow gives a reflection of the Group's ability to generate cash available for acquisitions, debt repayments and/or dividend distributions. The repayments of leases, reported as cash used in financing activities following the adoption of IFRS 16, are as such included in our calculation of free cash flow.
In 2019, the Group's free cash flow performance amounted to €107 million.
At the end of 2019, adjusted net debt amounted to €736 million (2018: €614 million). The increase of €122 million is substantially impacted by the debt and leases from the acquisition of Sandd of €103 million. The remainder is the net impact of (interim) dividend payments and new leases, offset by positive net cash from operating and investing activities and the inclusion of related deferred tax assets. Refer to note 4.1 to the consolidated financial statements for further details.
Consolidated equity attributable to equity holders amounted to €(21) million at 31 December 2019 (2018: €46 million). The decrease of €67 million is mainly explained by (interim) dividend payments of €71 million, partly offset by €4 million net profit in 2019.
At year end 2019, PostNL's cash and cash equivalents amounted to €480 million (2018: €269 million) with current assets exceeding current liabilities. Furthermore, PostNL has a €400 million committed revolving credit facility, which was fully undrawn at the end of 2019 (2018: undrawn). PostNL has no material refinancing of short-term credit facilities or other debt. There are no financial covenants. Our latest S&P credit rating is BBB with stable outlook. This underpins the solid financial performance and position of our company.