Iran tanker firm NITC settling BNP Paribas loans

LONDON - Iran's biggest tanker operator NITC will shortly settle loans owed to French Bank BNP Paribas and is confident it can weather growing turmoil in the sector and the threat of sanctions, the group's new chief said on Monday.
Industry sources told Reuters in November that NITC was in talks with BNP Paribas over the repayment of hundreds of millions of dollars in loans using Iranian funds held in South Korea.
"This is a voluntary repayment which is in progress and will be settled soon," Hamid Behbahani, who took the helm as chairman and chief executive in late January, told Reuters in an emailed interview. He declined to comment on the amount outstanding.
Behbahani, 71, formerly Iran's road and transportation minister as well as being a university professor, is a close ally of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He denied that his new post was a political appointment.
"It is a private company and obviously privately run. Accordingly it is the board of directors who decide on the appointment of the chairman and CEO," he said.
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