Ocado’s growth may have slowed a touch in the fourth quarter, but it seems a little churlish to pick holes in solid figures that show the company surviving the current grocery retail chaos and coping with tough comparables.

The online supermarket’s 14.9% fourth quarter growth was slightly higher than market expectations and also ahead of general online retail growth, suggesting market share gains.

Ocado now looks well on course to deliver its first full year profit when it reports its annual figures in February and there is plenty of evidence it is withstanding the sector pressures afflicting its more traditional supermarket rivals.

So why is the stock still 40% down since February despite recent gains? It seems that the market is waiting for something more transformative from Ocado than solid quarterly growth and that the real company-defining news is yet to come.

Shore Captial’s Clive Black describes Ocado as “one for the very patient investors”, noting that the firm has been short on updates on further tie-ups as it migrates from its original plan to be a proprietary grocer to a logistics and online fulfilment consultancy and provider.

“No doubt negotiations persist but the fact remains that the agreements with Waitrose and then Morrison’s have not moved the profit dial for Ocado, so it is understandable perhaps why we remain somewhat sceptical about any additional deals to delivering strong earnings never mind dividend growth,” he said.

But Ocado is far from the only stock trading at a premium because of potential rather than the pounds and pence in the profit column.

Ocado’s 44.5% share price boost since October suggests that the market is slowly regaining faith that these growth prospects might be realised after the stock collapsed in late September following a scathing analysis from broker Redburn.

First of all, it does not seem unlikely that Ocado will continue to outperform its online grocery peers. Concerns have been raised this year that Ocado could come under pressure as its rivals built their online offers and heavily discounted delivery fees. However, Ocado has not only outperformed the online market in 2014, but is likely to continue doing so next year as supermarkets shift their focus back to their core in-store offering and away from chasing low-margin online volumes.

It should also be able to cope with any more aggressive action on price from its rivals as, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, “while it is not immune to the price actions across the industry, its much broader product range relative to its supermarket peers offers some degree of protection.”

However, justifying its 540p price target on Ocado, BAML advises: “All eyes should be on its licensing potential”.

“We consider Ocado’s technology expertise and accordingly its international licensing potential as the real long-term value driver for the stock. We think the shares today provide an attractive opportunity for those looking to leverage the global online grocery theme and gain exposure to a truly unique business model,” the broker says.

It’s a view shared by Jefferies, which sees 2015 as the year when Ocado may finally pen some international agreements, an event which investors “will inevitably blue-sky”.

It is the unrealised potential of Ocado that has caused such disparity of opinion in the analyst community – with a number of brokers, including Shore Capital, having a sell rating on the stock on fears that a split with Waitrose is more likely than the prospect of it realising its international licensing potential.

Nevertheless, as if heads towards its first annual profit, Ocado can reflect on another year of solid progress. How supercharged that progress becomes next year remains to be seen.