French insurance giant AXA said on Thursday that first-half net profit had surged more than fourfold to 3.99 billion euros ($5.71 billion), beating forecasts as the company avoided being hit hard by a Greek debt charge. AXA said its earnings were up 324 percent from the equivalent figure last year while analysts had expected a net profit of about 3.7 billion euros. The results were boosted by an exceptional gain of 1.44 billion euros on the sale of some assets in Asia while the year-earlier period saw an exceptional charge of 1.48 billion euros, flattering the comparison. The company said the results showed that it was doing well in difficult circumstances as the eurozone debt crisis roiled the financial markets. It said it set aside just 92 million euros to cover its exposure to Greek government debt being rolled over under a second EU bailout for Athens agreed last month. AXA said its first-half revenue fell 5.0 percent to 46.8 billion euros but this was offset by improved margins which boosted operating profit by 11 percent. \"The first half results show that we are on the right track to meet the targets laid out in our strategic plan,\" chief executive Henri de Castries said in a statement. The results got a warm welcome with AXA shares up nearly 5.0 percent in early trade while the broader market was up more than 1.0 percent.