With us on the call today are Mike Long, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer; Paul Reilly, Executive Vice President, Finance and Operations and Chief Financial Officer; Andy Bryant, President, Global ECS; and Peter Kong, President, Global Components.By now, you all should have received a copy of our earnings release. If not, you can access our release on the Investor Relations section of our website, along with the first quarter CFO commentary that should be used as a complement to the earnings press release. You can access a copy of our earnings reconciliation for the first quarter in our press release or on the Investor Relations section of our website. Before we get started, I would like to review our Safe Harbor statement. Some of the comments to be made on today's call may include forward-looking statements, including statements addressing future financial results. These statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results or facts to differ materially from such statements for a variety of reasons. Detailed information about these risks is included in Arrow's SEC filings. We will begin with a few minutes of prepared remarks, which will then be followed by a question-and-answer period. As a reminder to members of the press, you are in a listen-only mode on this call, but please feel free to contact us after today's call with any questions you may have. At this time, I would like to introduce our Chairman, President and CEO, Mike Long. Michael J. Long Thank you, Greer, and thanks to all of you for taking the time to join us today. We executed well in the first quarter, with sales and earnings per share in line with our expectations. Cash flow generation was a bright spot for the first quarter as we generated $250 million in cash flow from operations with contributions from both business segments. We continue to manage the company for long-term growth and continuous improvement, which enables us to outperform the market regardless of the market conditions we operate in. We've also maintained gross margins in what is still a very difficult macro environment. Our return on working capital and return on invested capital continue to be strong.
In our global enterprise computing solutions segment, we had a very impressive performance this quarter. Sales were well ahead of normal seasonality and increased 15% year-over-year or nearly 3x the rate at which the market was expected to grow. Highlights for the quarter included robust product lines [Audio Gap] performance and storage, software, and services, which each grew in excess of 20% year-over-year.Consistent with our strategy to increase our sale in Europe, we recently announced our intent to acquire the Altimate Group, a value-added distributor of the enterprise and midrange computing products, services and solutions based in France. Once completed, this acquisition will enhance our industry-leading position across Western Europe and further strengthen key supplier relationships in the region. For 2012, Gartner expects global IT spending to increase more than 5% year-over-year on a constant-currency basis, with faster growth rates expected in the subsegments, such as telecom equipment and software. Global ECS is well positioned to capitalize on these trends as we have evolved our portfolio to the data center with almost 50% of our billings generated by software and storage product offering. We have and will continue to outperform the market and execute on our strategic objectives to differentiate Arrow ECS by expanding our geographic reach, increasing our services portfolio and utilizing our broad product offerings to create better value for our customers and suppliers. In our global components business, the Americas region performed well, and we continue to generate operating margins above the targeted level for the region in what was a more difficult environment compared to a year ago. The well-publicized macroeconomic challenges in the European region, as well as slower growth in China, have impacted our performance in those regions. Despite these headwinds, we did see an improvement in the global book to bill, which is now at 1.04, reflecting sequential increases across all regions. And we continue to see solid design activity in all regions with approved registrations up 21% from prior quarter. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com