The Commerce Department is reporting that U.S. exports to Russia shot up by more than 45% from Feb. 07 to Feb. 08, while a survey report of 300 international retailers ranked Russia third (22%) as a preferred destination for new franchises. There’s no shortage of drama in Kazakhstan’s mining sector, as Kazakhmys appealed to the Takeover Panel to flush out compatriot ENRC, which is attempting a takeover. Russia’s booming steelmakers such as Severstal and Evraz Group are scrambling to buy up as many U.S. steel assets as possible. As the U.S. dollar plummets below 24 rubles, the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) registered the record demand for foreign cash in February, causing speculation of an upcoming devaluation. Russia’s VTB bank has reported that 2007 profits rose 28.4% to $1.5 billion, however CEO Andrey Kostin warns of tough times ahead for the financial sector. One of the country’s leading land-line telecommunications providers, CenterTelecom, reported a 77.5% growth in net profit during 2007, while market share grew to 20% of Russia’s population.