Chrysler Corp. yesterday reported that it had a profit of $149.9 million in the first quarter of the year ($1.95 a share), but the No. 3 automaker would have had a loss if it had not sold its profitable defense subsidiary.

Chrysler Chairman Lee A. Iacocca said the company recorded an $89.1 million loss from operations in the first three months, but that was offset by the $239 million it got for its tank production unit. A year ago, Chrysler had a loss of $289.3 million for the first quarter.

Chrysler, which lost $475.6 million in 1981, last showed a quarterly profit in the second quarter of 1981--$11.6 million.

UAL, Inc. reported a consolidated net loss of $129 million for the first quarter of 1982, compared with a consolidated net loss of $21 million in the comparable period a year earlier. The company blamed fare wars and the 1981 air traffic controllers' strike, which reduced revenues of its United Airlines subsidiary.

Edward E. Carlson, UAL chairman, told shareholders at the company's annual meeting in Chicago that first-quarter operating revenues were $1.203 billion, down 2 percent from the $1.228 billion a year earlier.

Operating expenses for the 1982 quarter were $1.301 billion compared with $1.258 billion in the same year-earlier period.

General Electric Co. announced increased earnings for the first quarter of 1981.

The Fairfield, Conn.-based firm, the nation's fourth largest defense contractor, held almost $3 billion in military contracts in 1981.

Board Chairman John Welch Jr. reported first quarter earnings of $377 million, up 5 percent from 1981's first quarter figure of $359 million. But first quarter total sales were down one percent, from $6.09 billion to $6.02 billion.