Regulation was behind the U.S. listing. Alibaba management wants to maintain control of its board, but a dual-class share structure is banned in Hong Kong. In an era of the activist investor, Alibaba must strike the balance of continuing to perform while opening its books to information-hungry investors.
Alibaba will want to remain a ready acquirer. As it debated between NYSE Euronext and Nasdaq OMX, the company embarked on two major investments in a week, with stakes in Chinavision and messaging app TangoMe. But the question for investors is: does a full U.S. listing spell an unwelcome tone change for the large but nimble Alibaba?
(Read more: With Alibaba IPO official, pressure mounts on Yahoo)
Analysts at Yahoo, which owns a 24 percent stake in Alibaba, have been privy to scant detail of its inner workings. But expect a publicly-listed Alibaba to have analysts scrutinizing the company's numbers each quarter. The free rein to embark on fresh deals without criticism and fluctuations in the pace of growth in revenue that Alibaba has enjoyed will evaporate overnight.
For others, the bigger concern lies in the valuation at listing. Edmund Shing of BCS Financial Group notes the dominant market share that Alibaba has in global business to business online. But he is still skeptical of the merits of owning Alibaba stock.
(Read more: E-commerce giant Alibaba starts plan for US IPO)
Shing estimates that a market valuation of $120 billion to $180 billion implies a price-to-earnings ratio of 25 to 35 times earnings. He thinks Alibaba will mimic the strategy of Facebook and Google, using its expensive currency – stock – to buy assets. But the better buy, he says, is Yahoo. He believes investors will finally look at the company with fresh eyes. Yahoo has strong mobile internet exposure, and some of the most visited apps in its portfolio. Its stock has risen 66 percent over the past 12 months versus 21 percent for the S&P 500.
In coming weeks, investors will decide if there is treasure left or treasure looted when Alibaba declares "open sesame" to capital markets.
By CNBC's Karen Tso, follow her on Twitter @cnbckaren