By John S. McClenahen If you want to witness an executive verbal explosion, just suggest to General Electric Co. chairman and CEO John F. Welch Jr. that GE's pending acquisition of Honeywell International Inc. is an "old economy" deal. "What the hell do you think Honeywell is?" he snaps. Honeywell is a high-tech company, and so is GE, Welch insists. "We're merging two real high-tech companies. With real earnings. Doing real things. And using e-business tools. So get that straight," he demands. "A high-tech company isn't a dot.com," he further emphasizes. Honeywell is a "real business" with $2.5 billion in annual profit, says Welch, and GE is making a $12.5 billion profit. "We've got the world . . . to go after." And assuming the deal passes antitrust review in the U.S. and the European Union, the merged companies will have Welch at the helm until the end of 2001. Welch is postponing his planned April, 2001, retirement. "To leave while this integration was so early in progress would be nuts, especially during a management succession," Welch says. And Welch's staying on for several more months was critical to Honeywell's board approving the merger. "Without a commitment from Jack to stay aboard during this critical period of integration, I think [there] would have been a high degree of nervousness," relates Honeywell chairman and CEO Michael Bonsignore.