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United Airlines and its mechanics union said they expect to resume negotiations after the latter voted overwhelmingly to reject a contract that offered increases of up to 37 percent. The mechanics, who haven't had a pay raise since 1994, OK'd a strike that could begin Feb. 20. The pay increase had been proposed by federal mediators and was only reluctantly agreed to by the carrier, which said it couldn't afford it. United is a unit of UAL Corp., which posted a record loss of $2.1 billion last year.

A new round of layoffs, first reported by newspapers in London early this month, was confirmed by British Airways. The struggling carrier, Europe's largest, said it would cut 5,800 more jobs on top of the 7,200 announced last fall. BA also said it will sell off at least two planes and shut down 10 more yet-to-be-identified routes, all of them originating at London's No. 2 airport, Gatwick. The measures are aimed at saving almost $1 billion a year. BA has been losing a reported $2.9 million a day.

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General Electric announced it is venturing into a new business, agreeing to pay $1.8 billion for BetzDearborn, the world's No. 2 water-treatment service. The seller: specialty-chemical producer Hercules Inc. Trevose, Pa.-based BetzDearborn, which has about $1 billion in annual sales, will become part of GE's Specialty Products unit.


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