* EBIT rises 72 percent in first quarter
* Helped by gain from Direct Edge merger and higher revenue
* Deutsche Boerse in upper half of 2014 target range (Adds quote, comment on target, background)
FRANKFURT, April 28 (Reuters) - Deutsche Boerse posted a strong rise in quarterly operating profit that was boosted by gains from the previously announced merger of the BATS exchange with peer Direct Edge, in which Deutsche Boerse held a stake.
The German exchange operator said earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) were 330 million euros ($457 million) in the first quarter, compared with an average expectation of 261 million euros in a Reuters poll of banks and brokerages.
Deutsche Boerse recorded a one-off gain of 63 million euros in the quarter from a revaluation of shares and from a special dividend linked to the Direct Edge-BATS merger in January.
In recent weeks, the Frankfurt-based operator of the Xetra equities platform and the Eurex derivatives exchange has unveiled cooperations with the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Bank of China as part of its long-term strategy to boost its business in Asia.
"The focus for 2014 remains on infrastructure developments and tapping new growth areas, in particular the expansion of our presence in Asia," Deutsche Boerse Chief Financial Officer Gregor Pottmeyer said in a statement.
Quarterly net revenue rose by 6 percent, helped by a slight improvement in the business environment and the consolidation of the European Energy Exchange AG from the start of 2014.
"This helped us to increase net revenue to 514 million euros, the highest level since the third quarter of 2011," Pottmeyer said.
Earlier in the year, Deutsche Boerse unveiled growth scenarios for this year that showed net revenue of between 1.9 billion euros and 2.1 billion euros, adjusted operating profit of between 850 million and 1.05 billion euros, and adjusted net profit of 600-750 million euros.
"On the basis of net revenue, EBIT and consolidated net income generated in the first quarter of 2014, Deutsche Boerse Group is currently in the upper half of the respective forecast ranges," the company said. ($1 = 0.7223 Euros) (Reporting by Jonathan Gould; Editing by Erica Billingham)