Key highlights from the fourth quarter:
Zaandam, the Netherlands - Ahold today announced consolidated net sales of €9.8 billion for the fourth quarter of 2015, an increase of 21.4% compared to the fourth quarter of 2014. At constant exchange rates, net sales were up 11.8%. For the full year 2015, consolidated net sales were €38.2 billion, an increase of 16.6% compared to 2014. At constant exchange rates, net sales were up 4.3%.
Consolidated net sales in the fourth quarter and for the full year 2015 included a positive impact from an additional week compared to the previous year. Net sales in the fourth quarter and for the full year 2015 increased 3.1% and 2.3%, respectively, at constant exchange rates and on an adjusted basis. Excluding gas, net sales in the fourth quarter and for the full year 2015 increased 4.3% and 3.8%, respectively, at constant exchange rates and on an adjusted basis.
In the United States, sales excluding gas, adjusted for an additional week in 2015, increased 4.1% at constant exchange rates compared to the fourth quarter 2014. We successfully converted the 25 acquired former A&P stores during the quarter. Identical sales excluding gas were up 1.6%, positively affected by competitor store closures in the New York Metro market. Market share for the fourth quarter and full year increased compared to last year. We expect underlying operating margin for the fourth quarter to be higher than the previous quarter, positively affected by the additional week this quarter.
In the Netherlands, sales adjusted for an additional week in 2015 increased 5.5% compared to the fourth quarter of 2014, reflecting a strong holiday season. Identical sales increased 3.2% compared to the fourth quarter of 2014, with our online businesses bol.com and Albert Heijn Online increasing consumer sales by more than 30% compared to Q4 2014. Market share increased significantly for the fourth quarter as well as for the full year compared to last year. We expect underlying operating margin to be broadly in line with the previous quarter.
In the Czech Republic, sales adjusted for an additional week in 2015 decreased 1.8% at constant exchange rates compared to the fourth quarter of 2014. Identical sales excluding gas decreased 0.5% compared to Q4 2014. During the fourth quarter, the sales performance of the former large SPAR stores improved, while the supermarkets continue to perform well.
We expect free cash flow for the year to be ahead of last year, including the capital required for the conversion of the acquired A&P stores.
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 and cash flow, including the capital required for the conversion of the acquired A&P stores. 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 successfully implement and complete 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.”