We believe that quality health care services and the satisfaction of our beneficiaries are fundamental for our growth strategy in the regions in which we operate and in the other regions of Brazil where we believe we can successfully replicate our business model.
We plan our future growth primarily based on three objectives, which may be deployed simultaneously in different regions in Brazil, as set forth below:
- consolidation of our leadership in the cities of the North and Northeast regions of Brazil in which we currently operate, optimizing the penetration rate of health care and dental plans among the population of these areas;
- expansion of our activities to areas in the North and Northeast regions of Brazil in which we do not operate yet; and;
- expansion of our activities in the South, Southeast and Center-West regions of Brazil through the implementation of our business model.
In all cases, the expansion of our activities will be organic, through investments in new units, and through acquisitions of (i) companies of the sector, (ii) third-party service units, and (iii) portfolios of clients of other operators.
Focus on consistent organic growth under our current business model.
We will continue to drive our organic growth based on our differentiated value proposal and recent investments in quality, communications and new facilities, supporting quality services provided to our clients at low costs. Under our expansion plans, on January 25, 2018, we opened a new hospital in the city of Teresina, state of Piauí, with 53 beds. Teresina was the only capital city of the Northeast region in which we did not have our own hospital infrastructure. The construction of a hospital with 125 beds in the city of Joinville, state of Santa Catarina, is also progressing.
The North and Northeast regions of Brazil, where we already have a leadership position in terms of number of beneficiaries, still present significant growth potential in the cities where we operate and in microregions in which we do not have our own infrastructure. We believe that we are well positioned to increase our market share in the region, in line with our historical results. As of December 31, 2017, our market share was 27.8% in the Northeast region and 22.7% in the North region. In 2017, among the 10 largest health care companies, our increase in market share was the greatest, as we gained 2.4 percentage points in the Northeast and 1.5 percentage points in the North.
In the last three years, we entered into 56,307 agreements with corporate clients and 834,579 agreements with individual clients related to health care and dental plans, also as a result of the implementation of more efficient communication initiatives in the market about our differentiated value proposal. We plan to continue to leverage our value proposal to obtain more clients and retain our current clients at attractive levels of profitability.
Continue to drive our commercial strategy and strengthen our brand.
We will seek to expand our network of external brokers and sales representatives, which are focused on corporate and individual clients, and our own sales and post-sales teams, which are focused on the maintenance of our relationship with large and medium-sized corporate clients.
We will continue to apply the systematic approach of our commercial strategy, developed in recent years, encompassing: (i) the expansion of our portfolio of services; (ii) the increased use of technology for direct connection with our sales channels to speed up and optimize the process of purchase of health care and dental plans; and (iii) the strengthening of our relationship with brokers, increasing compensation based on performance. We will also continue to engage experienced professionals for our sales teams and invest in training.
The positioning of our brand in strategic cities includes the provision of segmented services to our clients. We have segregated services by target audiences to provide services to our beneficiaries even more effectively and safely. For example, Hospital e Maternidade Eugênia Pinheiro, opened in the second semester of 2017, located in the city of Fortaleza, is the first hospital of our own network and the first private hospital in the state of Ceará that offers services exclusively to women. The hospital has more than 150 beds, with a capacity to admit up to 1,300 patients per month, six individual rooms with pre-delivery, delivery and postdelivery beds, and equipment required for procedures, including heated nurseries that allow mothers to be close to their babies and a special wing for humanized births that is dedicated to ensure respect for maternal choices during childbirth.
We also seek to continue as a top-of-mind brand in the state of Ceará, which we have been rated by Instituto Datafolha, through incentives and sponsorships to a number of social and entertainment initiatives. In some capital cities of the North and Northeast regions of Brazil, we provide free jogging exercise advice to the public. Under our Programa Hapvida +1k, we sponsor running groups that serve approximately 10,000 people, with customized training for each athlete, coached by physical education professionals, in capital cities in Brazil. In some capital cities, we sponsor initiatives that facilitate urban mobility through the implementation of shared bicycle systems. We also contributed to bring the first shared electric car system to Brazil, through a project based on models that already operate in Paris and Milan, to reduce traffic and air pollution emissions. In order to reinforce our brand, we will continue to invest in advertisement in online and offline mass media, including TV, radio, internet and social media.
We believe that our sales efforts in recent years have been extremely successful. The number of brokers that sell our services, taking into account the number of brokers that operate for us per territory, and considering separately head offices and branches of the same broker, increased by 13.3%, from approximately 1,760 in 2015 to 1,994 in 2017. Our sales efforts combine a direct approach on both decision makers and final beneficiaries.
Geographical expansion through strategic acquisitions.
Notwithstanding the wide distribution of our own network in the North and Northeast regions of Brazil, we believe growth opportunities are available for the acquisition of portfolios of clients and/or service infrastructures to expand our own exclusive network even further within such regions. Additionally, we believe that our competitive advantages, together with market growth, will allow us to continue to increase our portfolio of clients in these regions in the next years and increasing our market share.
As of December 31, 2017, we had a market share of 27.8% and 22.7% in the Northeast and North regions, respectively, according to ANS. In 2017, we were the company with the highest market share gain among the ten largest health care operators, with a market share increase of 2.4 percentage points and 1.5 percentage points in the Northeast and North regions, respectively, according to ANS.
Additionally, we believe there are opportunities to expand our operations to cities of the North and Northeast regions of Brazil in which we do not yet have our own service infrastructure. We have identified certain micro-regions (encompassing a major city and bordering cities) in a number of states that we believe have potential for the development of our activities under our business model. These micro-regions, such as the micro-region of Juazeiro do Norte, in the State of Ceará, have more than 300,000 inhabitants each and the economic potential to develop a supplementary health care market.
The Southeast, South and Center-West regions of Brazil, which together have approximately 39 million beneficiaries in a fragmented market with consolidation potential, offer opportunities for the acquisition of vertical companies, portfolios of clients and service infrastructure. The strengthening of our brand, as mentioned above, and strategic acquisitions in specific geographical areas will serve as centers for future organic expansion and will allow us to replicate our vertically integrated business model. Such acquisitions allow for the rapid expansion of our presence in new and existing markets, increasing our portfolio of clients in different regions.
We believe that our business model allows us to operate as a consolidation platform in the sector and to benefit from opportunities resulting from the market fragmentation of health care plan operators and private hospitals. We actively seek potential strategic targets to maintain our recent pace of M&A transactions. Our acquisition strategy is focused on: (i) areas with a high concentration of beneficiaries, but where the offering of services of our own network is limited; (ii) integrated health care companies with a portfolio of beneficiaries and their own network with significant potential for synergies; and (iii) large markets bordering markets in which we already operate.
Drive the organic growth of our dental network through cross-selling.
As of the date of this offering memorandum, our dental accredited network has more than 5,000 dentists nationwide. We believe we identified a significant opportunity to expand this business even further through additional cross-selling initiatives, as only 36% of our corporate client base of health care plans included dental plans, as of December 31, 2017. We will continue to promote the sale of dental plans with our current client base of health care plans. In the period between 2015 and 2017, our client base of dental plans increased by approximately 455,184 new beneficiaries, as a result of our cross-selling strategy.
Focus on the preventive medicine sector.
Our preventive treatment units are an integral part of our vertically integrated health care model. The purpose of these units is to treat patients with chronic diseases and other patients whose treatment would be potentially expensive. At our preventive treatment units, we conduct projects and initiatives that promote the quality of life of special groups, including pregnant women and the elderly, risk groups and patients with chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
We seek to ensure that our beneficiaries receive appropriate preventive medical care and adopt healthier life habits to improve their general health. Beneficiaries of these programs are assisted by psychologists, nutritionists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, pediatricians and nurses, who assist patients to mitigate the risk of development of diseases that can be prevented and monitored. Moreover, preventive medicine promotes health education and campaigns that map chronic diseases at the workplace of our clients, in partnership with companies.