Last night, Salesforce published its quarterly results. In the aftermath, its market capitalization dropped $40 billion in after-hours trading. Today, there's no doubt that all eyes will be on the stock as soon as the market opens.

It's true that the group headed by Marc Benioff has been in the hot seat for some time. Activists from Elliott Management, Starboard Capital and ValueAct, among others, have smelled blood and are threatening to bite at any moment.

A series of dubious, or at any rate possibly overpaid, acquisitions - such as those of Slack, Tableau and Mulesoft - as well as various lavish expenditures have provoked their ire.

Furthermore, despite spectacular growth at all levels - with sales increasing sevenfold in ten years - Salesforce's operating margins remained incurably low, or at any rate far below those of direct comparables such as Adobe or ServiceNow.

This obscured the performance of a group that nevertheless remains a formidable cash machine, with free cash flow after stock options of $6.7 billion last year.

But the trend seems to be improving - precisely since last year. Margins have surged and should improve further this year, reaching 20%. Various initiatives have also been taken to prove to shareholders that over-aggressive acquisitions are a thing of the past.

If the market is reacting badly to last night's publication, it's probably because the pace of growth is slowing. For the fiscal year whose first quarter has just ended, Salesforce expects sales growth of 8% to 9%.

This is still a respectable performance for a group with sales of $35 billion, and all the more so with cash generation again exceeding all records over the past three months.

On a forward basis, Salesforce's valuation returns to a potentially very attractive level of twenty times free cash flow. Even at the peak of the pandemic-induced panic, the latter had not fallen below thirty times free cash flow.