saudi arabia of patagonia

IRSA’s US$54 million Shopping Neuquen is rising together with shale oil speculation in the Patagonia.

Carrefour, Coto, Jumbo, La Anonima and Walmart. Only one city in Argentina is home to all five major supermarket chains, and it’s not Buenos Aires, Cordoba or even Rosario. It’s the Patagonia capital city of Neuquen which is ground cero for Argentina’s nascent shale oil boom.

“Neuquen Comes To Life At The Hands Of Vaca Muerta” is the headline of Alfredo Sainz’s insightful analysis in today’s La Nacion which highlights the influx of real estate developers, retailers and hotel chains hoping to capitalize on what some energy market analysts are predicting will be “the Saudi Arabia of Patagonia.”

As Chevron and YPF ramp up plans for Vaca Muerta drilling, locals are forecasting exponential growth for both Neuquen and surrounding areas like Anelo and Rincon de los Sauces where thousands of Vaca Muerta workers are expected to live while their families reside in Neuquen.

In addition to new banks, hotels, and supermarkets, Neuquen is a magnet for new malls like IRSA’s US$54 million Shopping Neuquen, a 22,000 square meter multi-level galleria with 130 shops opening next year. The company’s president, Eduardo Elsztain, compares the Neuquen project with their Rosario mall whose opening coincided with the soybean boom a decade ago.

In closing, Sainz says the boom in demand for housing for both workers as well as managers and their families is pushing real estate prices in Neuquen to record levels. So in addition to drawing the inevitable Saudi comparisons, Neuquen might soon be known as the North Dakota of Patagonia.

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