Norwegian oil giant Statoil (NYSE:EQNR) recently announced its first-quarter result, and they completely blew away analysts' expectations. This earnings beat caused an immediate reaction in the stock, with shares of Statoil surging following the results. As there were several other things to like in this report besides just the earnings beat, we may be starting to see this sleeping beauty wake up.

Highlights from the earnings report
In the first quarter, oil prices were somewhat higher than in the first quarter of last year, as you may have noticed at the gas pump. This had a positive impact on Statoil's revenue, with the company reporting total revenue of NOK 169.9 billion (about $28.4 billion) compared to NOK 161.5 billion in the first quarter of last year.

The company's production, however, dropped slightly from the first quarter of last year, with Statoil producing an average of 1.978 million barrels of oil equivalent in the first quarter of this year. In the first quarter of last year, Statoil produced an average of 1.998 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Thus, the revenue increase came entirely from higher energy prices and not from higher production. This increased revenue made its way down toward the bottom line and caused Statoil to significantly increase its net operating income on a year-over-year basis. In the first quarter of this year, Statoil reported net operating income of NOK 51.4 billion (about $8.6 billion) compared to NOK 38 billion in the first quarter of last year. This is a 35% jump, and it vastly exceeded the increase in revenue.

However, some of that increase was attributable to a gain on the sale of assets and a legal award. Both are one-time items that will not occur again. If we back these out, we see that the company's earnings only grew by 9%, which is roughly the same as the year-over-year increase in revenue.

Potential for growth
For quite some time, Statoil has been working on the development of new assets. It's doing this to help it maintain production in the face of declining production from its maturing fields in the North Sea and on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. However, thus far all the company has really been able to accomplish is to slow its production decline or, at best, keep its production relatively stable. That now appears set to change.

In its first-quarter financial statements and review, Statoil provided an outlook that calls for 2% higher production in 2014 compared to 2013. This will be achieved by the company bringing some new fields online that should produce enough new oil and gas to offset the declining production from its older fields. But, that is not all.

Statoil will be bringing several other new projects online that will increase its production further. For the 2013-2016 period, Statoil expects to grow its production at a 3% compound annual rate. Assuming that energy prices don't fall too much, this should result in forward revenue and earnings growth.

Dividend increase
Up until this year, Statoil paid its dividend annually, usually in May or June. The most recent distribution, and the last annual dividend that the company will pay, is for the 2013 fiscal year and totals NOK 7 (about $1.17) per share. Beginning with the current quarter, Statoil will be paying its dividend quarterly -- just like most American corporations.

Not only did Statoil beat earnings estimates, but it also looks to have forward production growth and a growing dividend. The company finally seems to be realizing its potential.

Daniel Gibbs has a long position in Statoil. His research firm, Powerhedge LLC, has a business relationship with a registered investment advisor whose clients may have long positions in any of the stocks mentioned. Powerhedge LLC has no position in any stocks mentioned and is not a registered investment advisor. The Motley Fool recommends Statoil (ADR). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.