TOKYO - The Ministry of Finance disclosed that problem loans at Japan's eight home-mortgage companies were nearly $24 billion higher than industry analysts had believed.

Ministry officials said the eight companies have about $81.76 billion in problem loans. Until now, it was widely reported that the companies, known here as jusen, had about $58.4 billion in problem loans.

Moreover, Sei Nakai, deputy director of the ministry's banking bureau, said that roughly 75% of the total nonperforming loans at the jusen are "in danger of being irrecoverable."

His statement follows a special ministry investigation of the eight companies, seven of which face severe difficulties because they diversified from traditional home lending into speculative property development.

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