Hamilton State Bancshares in Hoschton, Ga., has agreed to buy Cherokee Banking in Canton, Ga.

Hamilton said Tuesday that it would pay about $8.5 million in cash for the $168 million-asset Cherokee, or $4 a share. The companies expect to complete the transaction in the first quarter.

The acquisition "will provide Hamilton the opportunity to expand into a new community with a well-established and highly regarded partner," Bob Oliver, Hamilton State's chairman and chief executive, said in a press release.

Cherokee has about $150 million in deposits and three branches.

The $1.4 billion-asset Hamilton has been an active acquirer of failed banks, taking over four institutions in recent years. The company will have 27 branches once it completes the Cherokee acquisition.

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