NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- As the drama over the attempt by

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

to be taken private by a consortium of investors for $24.4 billion mounts, some analysts are bracing for a new leveraged buyout wave that could see high profile companies like

Gap

(GPS) - Get Report

and

Symantec

(SYMC) - Get Report

find their way into private hands.

The last LBO wave crested in 2007 as credit markets began to freeze and overleveraged banks around the world fell into a state of crisis. Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts now foresee a new wave building as a result of cheap stock valuations, easy money and a revival in some key finance markets.

Such a scenario could put large-cap firms across the retail, technology and industrial space into private hands, as firms such as

Blackstone

(BX) - Get Report

,

Carlyle Group

(CG) - Get Report

,

KKR

(KKR) - Get Report

and

Apollo

(APO) - Get Report

look to put billions in investor money to work.

According to a screen by a team of Bank of America Merrill Lynch quantitative analysts, retailers as visible as Gap,

Coach

(COH)

and

Ralph Lauren

(RL) - Get Report

could be attractive take-out candidates, given their relatively high free cash flows and manageable debt positions.

In the industrial space, names like

C.R. Robinson

(CHRW) - Get Report

,

Joy Global

(JOY)

and

Northrop Grumman

(NOC) - Get Report

could be buyout targets, while tech specialists Symantec,

Computer Sciences

(CSC)

,

BMC Software

(BMC)

,

NetApp

(NTAP) - Get Report

and

Garmin

(GRMN) - Get Report

could also be taken private, according to the BAML analysts.

The BAML analysts were surprised that presidential elections in the U.S. and fears such as the so-called 'Fiscal Cliff' and the prospect of a double dip recession cooled M&A activity in Corporate America. Still, some key deal markets showed signs of life last year.

"The one exception was LBO activity, which has continued to be substantial," wrote the analysts in a report on Wednesday, highlighting that 66% of private equity deals in 2012 exceeded $1 billion.

"Driven by interest rates near all-time lows, an equity market that is on a multi-year climb, and a structured finance market that has made a resounding comeback, we believe the environment is ripe for a further acceleration in LBO activity as well as other forms of M&A," the analysts concluded.

The analysts also argued small cap stocks could benefit from a buyout revival, echoing

similar analysis

by Citigroup analysts.

Clothes retailer

Express

(EXPR) - Get Report

, tech firms

Ubiquity Networks

(UPTN)

,

Demand Media

(DMD)

and

Shutterfly

(SFLY) - Get Report

are among companies on BAML's small-cap takeover screen.

Other potential targets include foods players

Krispy Kreme

(KKD)

and

Tootsie Roll Industries

(TR) - Get Report

, as well as gun manufacturers

Smith & Wesson

(SWHC)

and

Sturm Ruger

(RGR) - Get Report

, according to the analysts.

"Our argument is based on the fact that balance sheets are in solid shape, capital markets are open and companies are able to get financing," the analysts wrote.

To make the screen, a company had to have a standard deviation for its last 20 quarters of free cash flow less than 0.22, with a free cash flow to enterprise value of more than 4.9%. A firm's net debt to EBITDA had to be less than 0.29, the analysts noted.

Earlier in March, Citigroup

highlighted

actuarial firm

Towers Watson

(TW) - Get Report

, media conglomerate

Gannett

(CGI)

, payments specialist

Total System Services

(TSS) - Get Report

, home retailer

Williams-Sonoma

(WSM) - Get Report

,

American Eagle Outfitters

(AEO) - Get Report

and

Packaging Corporation of America

(PKG) - Get Report

, as possible private equity buyout targets with market caps in excess of $4 billion.

The team of Citigroup analysts also listed underachieving companies such as

Abercrombie & Fitch

(ANF) - Get Report

, car parts supplier

Visteon

(VC) - Get Report

,

Allscripts Healthcare Solutions

(MDRX) - Get Report

, retailer

Saks

(SKS)

,

Fuel Systems Solutions

(FSYS)

and gaming software maker

Take-Two Interactive Software

(TTWO) - Get Report

, as notable small and mid-cap deal targets in 2013.

For more on M&A trends, see what

2013's mega-deals really mean

. Also see

Morningstar's top 2013 M&A picks

.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

Follow @antoinegara