TTI delivered record sales, record profit, and margin improvement for the period. This strong performance was a result of our ability to generate organic growth in existing and new markets, with powerful brands that connect with end-users, innovative new products with leading-edge technologies, and continuous improvement through operational efficiency and procurement.
Net profit attributable to shareholders was USD 96 million, a 20.1% increase over the first half of 2011. Basic earnings per share was US 5.69 cents, an increase of 13.8% compared to the same period last year. Total organic Group sales were up 5.2% before foreign currency impact. Foreign currency negatively impacted revenue by 1.2%. Our ongoing strategic focus on developing exciting new products contributed to the Group’s growth and comprised one third of sales. We continued to drive our geographic expansion programs aggressively, generating rest-of-world organic sales growth of 8.5% before currency adjustments.
Gross margin increased to 33.5% for the first half of 2012 from 32.9% for the first half of 2011. The improvement was achieved through productivity gains, including value engineering, lean manufacturing and supply chain efficiency programs, all of which have helped offset inflationary pressures. We were able to reduce headcount by 4.3% while growing sales 5.2%.
We continued investing in R&D and marketing to drive new product introductions and brand-building in global markets.
The Company continued to improve its working capital position. In the first six months of 2012, working capital as a percentage of sales improved to 18.9% as compared to 22.1% for the same period of 2011. Inventory was reduced by USD 49 million, a 6.1% decrease compared to the same period last year.