Time Inc. today announced a 32 percent drop in first-quarter profits, causing its chief executive to hedge earlier predictions of a record financial year in 1982.

Time President Richard J. Munro told stockholders here that the ongoing recession has virtually crippled the company's forest and building products subsidiary.

Munro had written in a letter accompanying the company's annual report that Time expected a record year for the corporation in 1982. "At this moment I am somewhat less confident of this estimate," Munro said during Time's annual stockholders meeting.

"The recession has been deeper than anticipated and the recovery is now forecast to be later and less robust than we expected, so our record year could be delayed," said Munro, a critic of Reagan administration economic policy.

For the first quarter, Time reported profits from continuing operations of $27.7 million (45 cents a share) compared with 1981 first-quarter profits of $40.6 million (68 cents). Sales rose to $805 million from $732.7 million.

But profits from the company's forest products division were off by 47 percent from the same quarter last year, with sales falling to $13.7 million.

In fact, that division's building products operation lost $1.3 million before taxes in the quarter compared with a profit of $3.9 million for the same period in 1981.

Profits for Time's publishing division, which includes magazine and book operations, also slipped in the quarter to $13.6 million from $14.4 million in 1981.

But Munro said the magazine division is in the midst of the "most vigorous developmental program" in company history, but did not disclose the types of ventures under consideration. However, he did acknowledge published reports that the company is working on development of a cable television magazine that is likely to compete with TV Guide in distributing program listings.

Munro painted a bright picture for the company's video divisions, which he said will top Time's magazine properties as a profit source this year. Time owns both the nation's leading pay television service, Home Box Office, and largest operator of cable systems, American Television and Communications. The video operation reported a 21 percent gain in profits for the quarter.

Meanwhile, Charles Bear, group vice president and secretary, said the company is close to announcing the sale of Time's remaining property at the site of The Washington Star, the daily newspaper closed by Time last year. That property represents about one-fifth of the acreage of the site, the remainder of which was sold to The Washington Post Co., Bear explained.