According to the country's census bureau, a decade of steady economic growth has lifted some 35 million Brazilians into a broad new middle class, a cohort now equal to about half Brazil's total population of nearly 200 million souls.
"With the rise of the middle class, there is more demand for services, including health-care services," said Humberto Selecetti, a KPMG consulting group partner. "Many international health-care companies are seeing only mediocre returns in their home markets, so they're opting for investments in countries with greater potential. Brazil is one of these."
According to Mr. Selecetti, only 23% of Brazilians currently have private health coverage of some kind, compared with 77% in the U.S. and 60% in Mexico.
U.S. players have taken the lead in staking out positions in the growing Brazilian market.
At the end of last year, U.S.-based UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) acquired Brazilian health insurer Amil Participacoes S.A. for $4.9 billion.
Earlier this week, U.S. drugstore chain CVS Caremark Corp. (CVS) acquired control of Brazil's Drogaria Onofre, for an undisclosed sum. A person close to the transaction said CVS paid around $300 million for an 80% stake in Onofre, a 44-store chain considered a "boutique" pharmacy brand in the country.
CVS said it views Brazil as an attractive market. It expects the region's health-care and pharmacy segments to grow by double digits annually over the next decade.
The health-care industry in Brazil is now expected to consolidate amid international investor interest. Local companies are likely to be highly cooperative as they seek ways of gaining scale in a potentially huge market. From 2004 through 2012, a dozen Brazilian companies including health insurers and drug retailers opted for stock offerings to help finance their expansion.
"There are some segments of…