It is fast becoming a leitmotif of the late 1990s: A newly created company, fresh from an emerging industry, gets walloped by an unforeseen event and then struggles to meet its debt payments under terms it can no longer handle.

Contifinancial Corp., one of a new breed of specialty finance firms, joined the chorus of companies pleading for more time Wednesday when it disclosed it was having difficulty meeting the terms of its $400 million of bank loans. Conti also announced losses of $237.7 million in its latest quarter.

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