The Yandex Beyond ML project, which was registered in Armenia in 2022, entered the company structure through Serbian Teletech. This follows from an extract from the register of legal entities of Armenia (available at RB.RU).
In March last year, Yandex registered a new holding company, Beyond ML, in Armenia and the United States. He specializes in the development of technological startups in the field of machine learning. According to RTVI, the company was registered in the name of Yandex senior managers Maxim Zagrebin and Dmitry Stepanov, who owned the structure in equal shares.
At that time, the leaders of the startups that developed Beyond ML were Yandex employees who left the company after the start of the 2022 crisis.
In April 2023, Armenia’s beneficiary registry reflected changes in the composition of the company’s owners. Thus, 100% of Beyond ML went to the Serbian structure of Yandex Teletech.
Yandex told RB.RU that it has been developing the Beyond ML project since 2021 as an “internal company experiment.” The Beyond ML team is currently focused on products such as Sellesta, Meteum, and Futuruka.
This is also stated on the Beyond ML website. A year earlier, six startups in the company’s portfolio were featured on the site, and RTVI, in turn, counted 10 companies that indicated on their sites that they were owned or managed by Beyond ML. Futuruka wasn’t on the list back then.
“Despite the legal changes, these projects [Sellesta, Meteum и Futuruka, — прим. ред.] were and remain part of the Russian group of companies “Yandex”. This is where we plan to develop them in the future,” Yandex commented on Beyond ML’s transition to the Serbian structure.
The press service added that Yandex New Products Director Dmitry Stepanov (also Beyond ML Director) owns 100% of Teletech. At the same time, Yandex did not specify Mikhail Zagrebin’s role in the ownership and management structure of Beyond ML. The name of the top manager also does not appear in the documents available to RB.RU.
Lawyers interviewed by RB.RU believe that such actions by structures that are in one way or another related to the Yandex business may be due to the desire to avoid risks of sanctions.
According to the managing partner of the BCA Unternemensberatung law firm, Alexander Baranov, at the beginning of last year, just when Beyond ML was registered in Armenia, many Russian organizations tried to urgently reactivate their activities through friendly jurisdictions.
“The creation of Beyond ML in Armenia could be necessary to retain some of the staff who opted for relocation,” says the lawyer.
The choice of Armenia, according to Baranov, can be explained by mutual agreements in rubles, as well as a clear and economical administration.
“The direct inclusion of a company in its group through a chain of intermediary companies often makes it possible to present the same image to external users of information in different ways,” adds the expert.
The director of the consulting firm Auslandsfinantsamt, Alexey Slobodchikov, believes that the registration in both Armenia and Serbia is probably explained by the desire to avoid sanctions. In addition, Serbia has become a convenient country for relocation, including for Yandex employees.
Lawyer Igor Apostol, for his part, points out the company’s upcoming division into Russian and international businesses. Beyond ML’s activities, the lawyer notes, were focused on foreign markets. However, when the business restructuring plans became known, the holding was transferred to the Yandex structures.
“It is obvious that such complex combinations are associated exclusively with the risk of being included in the sanctions lists,” the expert concluded.
Last fall, Yandex confirmed its plans to restructure corporate management. The parent company Yandex NV will be separated into a separate group and the Russian Yandex should become part of a new parent structure. In winter, Alexey Kudrin moved from the Accounts Chamber to Yandex. As the media wrote, he will receive 5% of the company for his help in the division of assets. However, this summer Alexey Kudrin was subject to US sanctions.
In August, Reuters sources noted that negotiations on the division of the business are currently effectively suspended. That same month, Interfax sources claimed that Dutch company Yandex NV was preparing to restart its international business in early 2024.
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