AXA said its net income for the six-month period rose to 3.999 billion euros from 944 million in a year-ago period that was depressed by a 1.478 billion exceptional loss.
The net result, boosted by gains from the sale of AXA's stake in Chinese insurer Taikang Life and of its Australia and New Zealand operations, beat the average estimate of 3.588 billion euros in a Reuters poll of nine analysts.
Underlying profit rose 11 percent to 2.22 billion euros, bolstered by improved property and casualty results, compared with the poll average of 2.187 billion.
AXA said it was taking a 92 million euro impairment for losses stemming from the Greek sovereign debt bailout.
The insurer did not provide any forecasts for the rest of the year, but AXA Chief Executive Henri de Castries said in a statement that the results showed it was off to a good start in meeting our objectives.
In May, the insurer said it was confident it would raise profits this year in spite of a drop in first-quarter sales.
In June, AXA said it was targeting underlying growth of 10 percent in earnings per share by 2015 on a compound annual growth rate basis.
AXA reported first-half revenue fell 5 percent to 46.836 billion euros, depressed by a drop in life and savings revenue.
So far this year, AXA shares are down 3.4 percent, outperforming the European insurance sector <.SXIP>, which has lost 8 percent.
(Reporting by Christian Plumb; Editing by James Regan)