Zaandam, the Netherlands – Ahold today announced consolidated net sales of €7.5 billion for the fourth quarter of 2013, a decrease of 1.1% at constant exchange rates compared to the fourth quarter of 2012. At current exchange rates net sales were down 4.2%.
For the full year 2013, consolidated net sales were €32.6 billion, an increase of 2.0% at constant exchange rates compared to 2012. At current exchange rates net sales were down 0.2%.
In the United States sales in the fourth quarter were down 2.1%, reflecting a contracting food market and the sales effect of Hurricane Sandy last year. We continue to build our online business and opened another 31 pick-up points, bringing the total to 120 in the United States. Market share for the year was ahead of 2012 though down slightly in the fourth quarter due to the strong comparative period last year as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Supported by the ongoing progress on our cost reduction program, we expect underlying operating margin to be broadly in line with the performance during the year.
In the Netherlands market conditions remained challenging and sales growth of 0.7% was mainly driven by the strong performance of our online businesses, both at albert.nl and bol.com. The addition of the C1000 stores is on track with 39 stores converted by year end. We continue to be pleased with the performance of our Belgian stores where we operated 19 stores at year end. At Albert Heijn transactions remained broadly stable at an identical base while basket size continued to be under pressure. For the full year market share at Albert Heijn increased slightly, although market share during the quarter was under pressure, similar to the third quarter. We expect the underlying operating margin to be slightly ahead of the prior quarter.
Our Slovakian business will no longer be reported under Other Europe but as discontinued operations following the announcement of its divestment. In an ongoing tough environment in the Czech Republic, sales were down 1.9%, while for the year underlying operating margin is expected to continue to show an improving trend.
This press release includes forward-looking statements, which do not refer to historical facts but refer to expectations based on management's current views and assumptions and involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results, performance or events to differ materially from those included in such statements. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements as to underlying operating margins. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from future results expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Many of these risks and uncertainties relate to factors that are beyond Ahold’s ability to control or estimate precisely, such as the effect of general economic or political conditions, fluctuations in exchange rates or interest rates, increases or changes in competition, Ahold’s ability to implement and complete successfully its plans and strategies, the benefits from and resources generated by Ahold’s plans and strategies being less than or different from those anticipated, changes in Ahold’s liquidity needs, the actions of competitors and third parties and other factors discussed in Ahold’s public filings and other disclosures. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this press release. Ahold does not assume any obligation to update any public information or forward-looking statements in this press release to reflect subsequent events or circumstances, except as may be required by applicable laws. Outside the Netherlands, Koninklijke Ahold N.V., being its registered name, presents itself under the name of “Royal Ahold” or simply “Ahold”.