Friday, April 19, 2024

Margarita Skravonska’s Journey in Corporate Law International Business

Margarita Skravonska’s Journey in Corporate Law International Business

Margarita Skavronska

Margarita Skavronska is an accomplished professional and female empowerment activist, corporate lawyer with extensive expertise in international investment, M&A and corporate structuring. Margarita has spent over 8 years in GCC, mamaging legal and corporate consulting teams. Margarita heads KSA branch of Endevio Group, Riyadh Chapter of WTECH Club (female leaders club with over 5000 members globally), is an Ambassador of TA Ventures Fund and ICLUB angel investors’ club. As the General Manager for Endevio in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, she holds an M.L Excellence Diploma and possesses 14 years of experience, with a specific focus on GCC countries for the past 8 years. Margarita has a proven track record of managing the accounts of prestigious organisations, including General Motors, Aston Martin, and Mubadalah in KSA. Her legal acumen extends across 23 jurisdictions globally, where she specialises in providing vital legal support for transnational M&A transactions and the intricate structuring of international holding companies.
With her notable contributions, including overseeing transactions worth $180 million, Margarita’s professional journey includes serving as the Head of the Legal Department for Together Networks Ventures, a leading IT Holding Company in the online socialising industry, and lending her expertise to the Tax-free Operator Company, renowned for VAT refunds in the EU, SIC, and USA. Margarita Skavronska embodies excellence in the corporate and legal realms, making her an invaluable asset in navigating complex international business landscapes.

With such a diverse and impressive career journey spanning across multiple jurisdictions and industries, what initially sparked your passion for corporate law and international business?

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Margarita Skavronska: Throughout my career, I’ve navigated various legal arenas, including commercial and tax-related disputes litigation. However, the pivotal moment that shaped my specialization occurred during my early years at my alma mater company. Fresh out of law school, I embarked on this journey with a vague understanding of legal intricacies. It was within the confines of this software development company, jointly owned by two families, that I truly honed my legal acumen.

The company’s structure, with each family holding a 50% stake, seemed balanced on the surface. But this setup caused a lot of fights. Even though everyone worked hard, without a clear leader or someone to solve problems, arguments got worse. This made legal problems worse because the rules about who owns what weren’t clear.

In retrospect, these experiences underscored the critical need for robust legal frameworks in corporate governance, a lesson that continues to inform my current legal practice.

As a board member of the Ukrainian Business Council in Dubai and Northern Emirates, how do you see the potential for collaboration and growth between Ukrainian businesses and the UAE, particularly in light of recent economic developments?

Margarita Skavronska: Despite facing various challenges, the UAE and Ukraine have continued their dialogue on trade. In 2021, their non-oil trade surged to $905 million, signifying a robust economic exchange. Notably, Ukraine stands as a key wheat supplier to the UAE, meeting 90% of its imports. Moreover, the UAE’s investments in Ukraine soared to $243 million in the same year.

Surprisingly, the problems in Ukraine have actually made the relationship between Ukraine and the UAE stronger when it comes to business. Many tech companies from Ukraine have moved their main offices and work to the UAE, showing that they’re becoming closer economically.

The UAE and Ukraine work together in a few important areas. Making metal is a big part of what they do together, making up 30% of their work together. They both also like working on big building projects and new technology ideas, which shows they both care about new and cool stuff. They’re also looking at ways to trade food and help each other with farming, both in big ways and small ways. Even though there are still problems, the UAE and Ukraine are sticking to their promise to keep helping each other out and making their partnership stronger.

You’ve managed accounts for prominent companies like General Motors, Aston Martin, and Mubadalah-owned companies in KSA. Can you share a specific example of a challenge you encountered and successfully resolved while handling their legal matters? 

Margarita Skavronska: Saudi Arabia is vigorously transforming itself into a global leader in Industry 4.0, driven by a robust digital regulatory environment, strong infrastructure, a skilled workforce, and a vision for innovation and foreign investment. With a focus on leveraging artificial intelligence for sustainability, the Kingdom aspires to be at the forefront of technological advancement.

Under the ambitious Vision 2030 initiative, Saudi Arabia is committed to increasing its investment in research, development, and innovation to 2.5% of its GDP by 2040. Despite significant progress in digitalization across government bodies and smart cities infrastructure, occasional miscommunication among these platforms persists, requiring diligent efforts to address and resolve issues.

While rare instances of miscommunication may arise, our team is dedicated to providing personalized solutions and taking unconventional measures to ensure our clients’ success in navigating the Kingdom’s digital landscape. We are committed to going the extra mile to overcome any challenges and support Saudi Arabia’s journey towards a digitally-driven future.

Given your expertise in transnational M&A and structuring international holding companies, what strategies do you employ to ensure seamless legal transitions and compliance across multiple jurisdictions?

Margarita Skavronska: I’d consider it more of a guiding principle rather than a specific strategy—the principle of simplicity. During the offshore era up until the BEPS plan, international corporate lawyers often fell into the trap of needlessly complex holding structures, resulting in narrow-functional companies without clear justification. This principle is crucial not only for banking, group tax, and regional compliance but also for streamlining risk mitigation, tax optimization, and deal structuring.

Opting for simplicity doesn’t always mean creating multiple entities. The same principle applies to drafting joint venture agreements, option agreements, shareholders’ agreements, and draw-down documents. Simplifying these processes can enhance efficiency and clarity, ultimately benefiting all parties involved.

As the head of the legal department for Together Networks Ventures, you handled transactions totaling $180 million. Can you walk us through one of these transactions, highlighting your role and the key legal challenges you navigated?

Margarita Skavronska: Due to my NDA agreement and utmost respect for client confidentiality, I must limit the specifics of my response. Historically, many tech-related holdings, particularly those of Slavic origin, operated with decentralized structures spanning multiple jurisdictions such as the EU, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the USA. While this approach was prevalent in the past, there has been a positive shift towards more streamlined and centralized structures.

In the past, advocating for transparency and the benefits of consolidating legal entities, institutionalizing investment processes, consolidating intellectual property in low-risk jurisdictions, and implementing group tax compliance policies presented significant challenges. However, through concerted efforts, industry stakeholders have increasingly recognized the importance of these practices, leading to positive changes in the industry landscape.

In your experience working with Tax-free Operator Company, how do you approach navigating the complex landscape of VAT refund regulations across the EU, SIC, and USA?

Margarita Skavronska: I found great satisfaction in handling matters pertaining to the European VAT regulatory framework. Its unified, stable, and predictable nature contributes to its efficiency. The VAT refund process within the European Union operates under the guidance of the European Union Directive on value-added tax, serving as comprehensive legislation.

Collaborating with the UK HMRC was especially gratifying. Despite the distinct fiscal approach adopted by the tax regulator, the VAT refund process maintained its smooth and efficient operation. In contrast, the United States lacks federal regulation of sales tax, often requiring extensive support from local tax and legal experts.

As a business development executive and founder of a corporate consulting company, what do you believe are the essential qualities for building and maintaining successful client relationships in the legal and corporate services industry, especially on an international scale?

Margarita Skavronska: While I may not excel as a salesperson, I pride myself on being a skilled networker. My greatest joy comes from connecting with people on a human level, regardless of their potential as clients, colleagues, or business partners. Even in the diverse landscape of international business, my approach remains unchanged.

I find immense satisfaction in recognizing the common humanity that unites us all. Despite the rich tapestry of cultural differences, we are all born, bleed, dream, and love in much the same way. This fundamental understanding guides my interactions and fosters meaningful connections across borders and cultures.

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