Lastly, some of our remarks contain non-GAAP financial measures as defined by the SEC. Reconciliations of the non-GAAP financial measures to the most comparable GAAP measures are attached as an appendix to this presentation and to our press release from this morning, both of which are posted on our website.
With that I’ll turn the call over to Jacques Esculier.
All right. Thanks, Jason. Good morning, good afternoon to you all and thank you for attending our call today. While the first quarter of 2012 is actually from the market and business standpoint very much aligned with what we had anticipated and shared with you three months ago. We actually opened the year that we call year of transition that we still believe is characterized by high level of uncertainty and by market evolution in certain of our key markets like Europe, China, Brazil. Also to recognize actually a continuous growth and recovery at this time in the North American market.
Now in this environment you will see that today WABCO is starting on a high note. We are continuing to outperform our market and actually we also set new record in operating margins. So looking at the numbers on the first page, starting with top line. First quarter sales established itself at $657 million, up 0.5% in local currencies. We generated a gross profit margin at almost 30%, 29.9% to be accurate. Which happens to be a record level for WABCO at this time and it’s significantly, nicely up versus 29.2% a year ago, leading to a performance operating income of $91.3 million which also represents 13.9% in terms of margins versus sales. And that’s also a new record breaking for WABCO.
Generating performance EPS of $1.17 versus $1.12 a year ago and a free cash flow of close to $79 million which drives a conversion rate of 102%. Of which we returned $49 million to shareholders with the repurchase of 874,000 shares. And as of today we see no reason to revise or modify our guidance and we would maintain that. So our growth this quarter is again characterized by a continuous market outperformance in a market that is uncertain and eroding in some areas of our business, as well as some new records that were our operating and gross profit margin.