Today’s presentation contains a number of non-GAAP measures, which should not be considered as substitutes for the most directly comparable GAAP measures. You will find a reconciliation of the non-GAAP measures, to the corresponding GAAP measures in the appendix. Then now I would like to turn the call over to our CEO, Ed Bonach. Ed?
Edward J. Bonach
Thanks Erik. Good morning everyone and thank you for joining us today. We are pleased to discuss the significant steps we are taking to further improve our capital structure and shareholder value. Our strong operational and financial performance have positioned us favorably to execute on a recapitalization plan, which we anticipate will lower our cost of capital and improve financial flexibility. This recapitalization plan is propelled by the strength of CNO’s business strategy and performance.
Before I dive deeper into the rationale, it’s worth quickly reflecting on our business performance and current capital position noted on slide four. We are dedicated to the underserved and rapidly growing senior middle-income market, which defined and differentiate us in the industry. We have been investing in the expansion of our distribution to this market, while emphasizing profitable growth. This is continuing to yield solid sales and earnings results.In the first half of 2012, sales grew 9% over the first half of 2011, and operating earnings were up 8% over the same period. We continue to generate and deploy significant amounts of excess capital, with strength in both statutory earnings and cash flow sent to the holding company. Our strong financial position and our continued generation of cash and excess capital allowed us to continue to buyback stock in an accelerated rate. As previously announced during the second quarter, our Board of Directors approved an additional $100 million for share repurchases as well as approved an initiation of a dividend program. These were significant milestones for CNO, marking the tremendous progress the company has made, through some of the most challenging economic conditions in our history, and also demonstrating confidence in our currents in future cash flow and financial strength. It is even with the increased capital deployment in the second quarter, our key metrics of risk-based capital and debt to total capital further improve during the quarter, and liquidity at the holding company increased to nearly $200 million. These accomplishments have recently been recognized by the rating agencies with S&P revising the outlook and our ratings to positive in early August, and both A.M. Best and Moody's providing upgrades to our ratings within the last week.