Joining Pierre, Kim and Mark for the Q&A session will be Milton Steele, President Agricultural Products; and Michael Wilson, President Specialty Chemicals Group.
Our discussion today will focus on adjusted earnings for all income statement and EPS references on our website available at fmc.com You will find the definition of adjusted earnings and certain other non-GAAP financial terms that we may refer to during today's conference call under the heading entitled Glossary of Financial Terms, as well as we provided a reconciliation to GAAP of the non-GAAP figures we will use today.
Also posted on our website, I'd like to call your attention to the current 2012 outlook statement, which provides our guidance for the full year and first quarter 2012.
It's now my pleasure to turn the call over to Pierre Brondeau. Pierre?
Pierre R. Brondeau
Thank you, Brennen. And good morning, everyone. Our fourth quarter results provided a strong finish to a year of remarkable accomplishments for FMC. We achieved record financial performance in 2011 and made great progress implementing our Vision 2015 strategy plan.
Here is a brief summary of our accomplishments in 2011. Sales and EBIT both increased 13%, excluding the prior year impact of exited businesses. Earnings per diluted share grew by 21%. Free cash flow of $180 million was generated. Return on invested capital increased to 23.9%. Agricultural Products delivered eighth year of record earnings. Specialty Chemicals achieved sixth consecutive years of record earnings led by the seventh consecutive year of record earnings on BioPolymer. Industrial Chemicals realized robust earnings growth, the highest profit growth among our segments on the strength of our soda ash business and continued shift towards Specialty Peroxygens.
Across our businesses, we completed 4 company or product line acquisition, formed 2 joint ventures and established 2 product development and distribution agreements, all designed to strategically broaden our capacity to serve customers and enable us to capitalize on organic market growth opportunities. And alongside these external growth initiatives, we returned $206 million to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock repurchase.