UPDATE 1-Russia's Novatek 2018 income up to $2.5 bln after Yamal LNG launch

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MOSCOW, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Russian gas producer Novatek said on Wednesday its 2018 net profit rose 4.7 percent to 163.7 billion roubles ($2.5 billion) thanks to the start of liquefied natural gas (LNG) production.

Novatek, controlled by CEO Leonid Mikhelson and businessman Gennady Timchenko, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, launched Yamal LNG in the Arctic in December 2017 as part of Russia’s plan to raise its share on global energy markets.

Moscow-traded shares in Novatek, Russia’s biggest gas producer which is not owned by the state, rose 1.3 percent.

Other stakeholders in the project with annual capacity of 16.5 million tonnes per year are Novatek’s shareholder and French energy major Total, as well as China’s CNPC and the Silk Road Fund.

Excluding the effect of foreign exchange differences, as well as the one-time effect from the disposal of interests in joint ventures, profit jumped 49 percent to 232.9 billion roubles.

Higher oil and gas prices helped lift earnings, the company said.

Last-year revenues rose by 42.6 percent to 831.8 billion roubles, while natural gas production increased 8.5 percent to 68.8 billion cubic metres, oil and gas condensate output edged up by 0.3 percent to 11.8 million tonnes.

$1 = 65.6900 roubles Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin Editing by Mark Potter and Edmund Blair