In this unprecedented economic environment, every financial institution has had to consider carefully what level of risk is appropriate for its business model in light of mixed economic and financial market indicators. We have continued to position HSBC's balance sheet conservatively, while focusing on enhancing the capabilities which will enable us to deliver sustainable long-term growth once the current global downturn has ended. Michael Geoghegan highlights these actions in his statement.
Our performance proves our ability to deliver profit, generate capital and make distributions to our shareholders throughout the business cycle - even in challenging market conditions. We are pleased with our results and profitability overall is ahead of the expectations we had at the outset of this year. In large part this reflects an excellent performance in our Global Banking and Markets business. It also reflects progress made in the US, where we announced our decision to run off a major part of our consumer finance business in March. Following the very difficult conditions experienced in the latter part of last year, provisioning in 2009 has been lower at this stage than might have been expected given the rise in unemployment.
On a reported basis, pre-tax profit was US$5 billion, US$6 billion higher than the second half of 2008, but down 51 per cent on the first half. On an underlying basis and excluding movements in fair value on our own debt credit spreads, our pre-tax profit was US$7.5 billion, broadly in line with the first half of 2008.
HSBC fundamentally remains a deposit-led banking group, with a business model committed to long-term customer relationships and an emphasis on the world's faster-growing markets. This gives us revenue streams diversified by both customer group and geography, providing resilience for the Group in these difficult economic conditions.
Building capital strength
HSBC is both strongly capitalised and highly liquid. The completion of our rights issue in April boosted our financial position, raising US$17.8 billion of shareholders' equity. In an environment where many institutions are reliant on government help, the 97 per cent support for our rights issue, given its scale and the environment in which it was launched, was a powerful vote of confidence in our future by you, our shareholders, and we are truly grateful for your support.
Notwithstanding that the rewards from attracting deposits from both personal and corporate customers are currently lower than normal, these remain at the heart of our banking philosophy, and the ratio of published customer advances-to-deposits remained conservative at 79.5 per cent.
The tier 1 ratio further improved to 10.1 per cent. At 31 December 2008, the tier 1 ratio was 8.3 per cent or 9.8 per cent on a pro-forma basis including the proceeds of the rights issue. The core equity tier 1 ratio was 8.8 per cent at 30 June 2008.
As projected at the time of the rights issue, we paid a first interim dividend of 8 cents per ordinary share on 8 July, and the Directors have approved a second interim dividend of 8 cents per ordinary share, payable on 7 October with a scrip alternative.
Pursuing a clear strategy
HSBC's strategy remains unchanged. This is to combine our emerging markets leadership with a global network that offers the advantage of international connectivity and scale, making HSBC the leading international bank. If anything, the recent financial and economic turmoil has only reinforced our conviction that this strategy is the right one. By retaining this focus, we remain confident in our ability to deliver sustainable growth and believe that a return on total shareholders' equity within our target range of 15 to 19 per cent remains achievable over the full business cycle.
The proceeds from the rights issue have reinforced our capital strength, allowing us to navigate the economic and regulatory environment, take long-term decisions in support of our brand and customer relationships and look confidently at expansion opportunities consistent with our strategy.
Growth in emerging markets
At a time when some organisations may be finding it difficult to look beyond the near-term, our appetite for developing business in emerging markets remains undiminished.
Many banks have disposed of their stakes in strategic investments to generate capital. HSBC has not done so, and we have continued to bring a long-term strategic approach to these relationships. The market value of our three largest strategic investments in mainland China has grown significantly since we acquired them, and increased by US$8.2 billion during the first half of 2009.
In this period of uncertainty, we are very disciplined in reviewing the new opportunities which emerge, but we continue to expand organically in line with our strategy and where there is customer appetite. In mainland China, where HSBC has the largest investment and largest branch network of any international bank, we became the first to settle cross-border trade in renminbi in July and we launched the first floating rate renminbi bond in Hong Kong in June. In Vietnam, HSBC became the first foreign bank to incorporate locally. We have increased the number of HSBC Premier customers to 2.9 million, of whom over half are based in emerging markets.
During the first half of 2009 we completed our previously announced acquisition in Indonesia and fully integrated our acquired business in India. We also received regulatory approval for a new jointly held insurance entity in mainland China.