Energy company Statoil today emphasised a focus on profits over volumes, as it managed to beat forecasts for both earnings and output in the third quarter and raised its target for spending on exploration.

Statoil has expanded aggressively out of its traditional Norwegian base over the past several years.

It said it was on course to raise output by more than a quarter by 2020 but that the figure was not carved in stone.

"We are value and not volume driven," chief executive Helge Lund said, adding that Statoil had already discovered enough oil and gas and that reaching this year's output target was only a matter of the costs of developing finds.

"The entire industry is characterised by rising costs and declining profitability," Lund said. "It is imperative that we as an industry are able to constantly improve operations and control costs - there is a need for further action."

With investments set at $19 billion this year, Statoil has been forced to sell some assets to finance growth and cover its cash needs after paying out dividends.

Those sales as well as a redistribution of shares in the major Ormen Lange gas field will hit production by up to 120,000 boepd next year, the company warned, a decline that it may be able to offset by production increases elsewhere.

Rather than a slowdown in spending, Statoil raised its 2013 exploration target to $3.75 billion from $3.5 billion and said it would drill 60 wells instead of a planned 50.

In the third quarter, the state-controlled company lifted output to 1.852 million barrels of oil equivalents per day (boepd), beating forecasts for 1.84 million.

Its adjusted operating profit rose 1% to 40.4 billion crowns ($6.9 billion), ahead of forecasts for 39.5 billion.

With big finds in Canada, East Africa and Norway, Statoil has been the most successful offshore explorer so far this year, and the firm has a big portfolio of projects that will come online towards the end of the decade.

In the US, where the firm has expanded rapidly in the shale gas segment, it said it would limit growth and focus on value after falling gas prices have hurt its profitability.