Oslo - Norwegian oil giant Statoil almost quadrupled its first quarter profits, the group announced on Tuesday, thanks to higher oil and gas prices and lower expenditure.

Profits leaped to 23.6 billion kroner ($3.94 billion, 2.84 billion euros) compared to 6.4 billion kroner a year previously.

Despite a one-percent drop in production, the company said it benefited from higher oil prices and good results from its US gas operations.

The increased profits were also due to a significant drop (4.7 billion kroner) in oil exploration spending.

“Our operational performance is solid, providing the foundation for around 2% re-based organic (oil) production growth in 2014,” chief executive Helge Lund said in a statement.

Hit by soaring costs in the oil services sector, Statoil along with its competitors recently announced cut-backs in investments in order to build up its cash flow.

In February the oil group - which is 67-percent owned by the Norwegian state - reduced its investment spending forecast for 2014-2016 to $20 billion per year from $21.7 billion. - Sapa-AFP