During 2014, there was a modest decline in operating income of 3%, mainly driven by difficult market conditions in South Africa and in our Industry, Energy & Mining business. Aviation, Maritime & Waterways and Rivers, Deltas & Coasts businesses achieved strong growth.
We have adapted our South African operation. Instead of being organised in a separate Business Line all operations are now integrated in our worldwide operating business lines, boosting collaboration and cross-business expertise to fulfil clients’ needs for more integrated service offerings.
The operational result (EBITA recurring) ended at €14.7 million (€14.8 million in 2013). The corresponding operating EBITA margin stayed the same at 2.3% as percentage of operating income; improvements were visible in most of our sectors, with the exception of South Africa and parts of our Industry, Energy & Mining business. Utilisation rate remains an area of concern and we focus on continuous improvement in our operations. Restructuring and integration costs were considerably lower than in 2013.
We are very pleased to report our net result significantly improved and ended at €6.3 million, compared to a €3.4 million loss in 2013.
We have implemented best practices in our working processes to ensure we are paid promptly by our clients. Through a dedicated workforce on working capital management, we have been able to bring our days sales outstanding (including work in progress) from 100 to 90 days, with a positive impact on working capital. In line with our target, we increased sales added value from selected top clients across each market by 22% compared with 2013.
Overall for 2014 the free cash flow increased by €43 million to €26 million (€17 million negative in 2013). Decrease in working capital, especially during the second half of 2014, and lower restructuring costs were the main drivers for this improvement. Our financial position remains healthy with equity ratio improving to 39% and a net cash position at the end of the year. We have renewed our bank facility mid-year, securing our funding for the coming three years.
Our order portfolio has been stable over the year, albeit slightly decreased compared to 2013. We have achieved a significant growth of our order portfolio with existing clients, and received an average score yet from client satisfaction surveys, at 8.2, which is a reflection of their appreciation of our services.