Mercury Finance Co. edged closer Tuesday to giving investors a complete look at its precarious financial condition.

The company said it is now current on payments for the interest on its outstanding debt and has made a $70 million payment on the principal. Lenders have granted the necessary waivers for a second extension, through Sept. 30, of a $50 million loan from BankAmerica Corp.

In a partial disclosure of revised yearend 1996 numbers, the Lake Forest, Ill., subprime auto lender reported $933.6 million of debt outstanding, half of it bank debt. Shareholder equity-or book value-was put at $168.9 million.

Analysts said the numbers were mostly as expected, although some noted the company initially estimated $263 million of shareholder equity in late January, after an accounting scandal threw the company-and virtually the entire industry - into a financial crisis.

Mercury still has not released its 1996 income statement. The company blamed changing accounting standards for the delay. It said that first- quarter results should be released next week.

Mercury chief executive William A. Brandt called the company's new agreements with its lenders "signposts of progress."

"We have a distance to go, but we have come a long way since February," he said in a press release.

Although Mercury has tremendous debts, J.C. Bradford & Co. analyst Henry J. Coffey said the company might be able to survive as long as it can pay the interest due to creditors.

"Because they didn't securitize, the cash flows from loans go to them," he said. "With securitizers, that money goes directly to investors."

Mercury financed its operations largely through the commercial paper market and long-term debt markets.

The company reported commercial paper and note liabilities of $525 million. The company owes another $489 million to banks in term notes.

Shareholder equity for 1996 would have been lower if Mercury had recorded losses from the sale of its insurance unit, which was sold in March for less than book value.

That loss will be reported in 1997 financial statements, the company said.

The market's response to all this was restrained. Mercury's shares closed at $2.625, down 6 cents.

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